Co-op Market FAQs

Co-Op Market FAQs

Product  |  Organic  |  Quality  |  Safety

If you need help navigating or ordering from this site, you can call Online Customer Assistance during business hours (8am - 5pm CT, Monday - Friday) at 800-669-3275. We've answered some of the most frequently asked questions below. If you don't see the information you're looking for, you can email Customer Care.


Q: What allergens are present in your facility?
A: We manufacture some products within our facility with ingredients that contain allergens. When ingredients with allergens first arrive at our facility, we are careful to identify them, tag them and isolate them in storage. When we process products that have any of these ingredients, we do a special cleanup afterwards to prevent the allergens from carrying over to subsequent processing. We provide full disclosure of all ingredients on our labels, so you can check there for any allergens you wish to avoid.


Q: What is your policy on animal testing?
A: None of our products are tested on animals.


Q: How much caffeine is in your tea?
A: The caffeine content of tea varies depending on a number of factors, including the variety and age of the leaves, the size of the leaves, the environment where they were grown, and the method of steeping. Generally speaking, the longer a tea is steeped, the higher its caffeine content. Because black tea is often steeped longer than green or white, it's considered to have the most caffeine — even though the dry leaves of black teas aren't higher in caffeine than those of green teas. The general range is 15 to 70 mg of caffeine per cup.


Q: Q: Is your facility gluten-free?
A: While spices and herbs are naturally gluten-free, we do not test for gluten in all products, only those certified gluten-free (by GFCO) under the Simply Organic brand. We don't make gluten-free claims for any other products because even tiny amounts of gluten can be a problem, and these may be present in our facility or the facilities of our suppliers.


Q: Do your products contain any genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)?
A: We no longer receive or produce any products in our Food and Flavorings division with GMO ingredients or GMO-suspect ingredients, and all finished goods are free of GMO ingredients and suspected GMO ingredients.


Q: Are your products irradiated?

A: We have always opposed using irradiation for sterilization of spices, herbs and foods, and we do not use any ingredients or carry any products that are irradiated under any of our three brands (Frontier, Simply Organic, and Aura Cacia).


Q: What does kosher certified mean?
A: In order for a product to be kosher certified, a kosher certification company must inspect the production process from start to finish, checking every container and all conveying, processing and packaging machinery to ensure that nothing non-kosher can get into the food.


Q: Who is your kosher certifier?
A: Frontier and Simply Organic products are certified by Kosher Supervision of America (KSA).


Q: Are your products kosher?
A: Most Frontier and Simply Organic spices and seasonings are kosher. This information is on product labels and is also accessible online on each item information page.


Q: Why don't you provide any information about the medicinal uses of herbs?
A: In a nutshell, because it's against the law. There are strict Federal regulations prohibiting any herb supplier from making health claims for their products. Our practices comply with those FDA and FTC regulations and follow the recommendations of the American Herbal Products Association.


Q: Do your products contain MSG?
A: We do not add monosodium glutamate (MSG) to any of our products. FDA regulations require that if MSG is added to a product it must be identified as monosodium glutamate on the label. Some of our ingredients may contain some naturally occurring glutamic acid, which can combine with sodium present in the product to naturally form MSG. While the FDA classifies MSG and glutamic acid as generally safe, people who are sensitive to MSG and glutamic acid may suffer from adverse reactions.


Q: Where can I find nutritional information for your products?
A: All of the food products and dietary supplements that we sell that have reportable nutrients (amounts significant enough to warrant reporting according to FDA food labeling regulations) will feature a Nutrition Facts Panel or Supplement Facts Panel on each item information web page. (See the reportablenutrients FAQ for more info.)


Q: Why isn’t there nutritional information on most spices?
A: Most of our single ingredient spices (that is, basil, fennel, cumin, etc.) don't contain any reportable nutrients. Reportable nutrients are amounts significant enough to warrant reporting according to FDA food labeling regulations. (See the reportable nutrients FAQ for more info.)


Q: How is your nutritional yeast produced?
A: It's a primary-grown yeast from pure strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown on mixtures of cane and beet molasses. After the fermentation process is completed, the yeast is harvested, thoroughly washed, pasteurized, and dried on roller drum dryers. Vitamins B2 and B12 are both naturally produced during fermentation. Additional B2 and B12 are added after fermentation but prior to the drying process, along with B1, B6, niacin and folic acid. Due to the naturally occurring color variation of the molasses culture used to grow this yeast, some color variation may be present in the finished product. Note: Glutamic acid is present in this product.


Q: How are your products processed?
A: We do not regulate the methods our suppliers use to grow, harvest, and process the products we purchase from them. Processing may vary from crop to crop and amongst suppliers. The way in which suppliers process their crops is often considered proprietary. They determine the best method to produce a high-quality product. Our Quality Assurance department has researched and developed a set of specifications for each product that we offer, and we ensure all products meet those specs with a comprehensive quality program.


Q: What are reportable nutrients?
A: FDA food labeling regulations (21CFR101) exempt nutrient listings for foods that contain insignificant amounts of all of the nutrients and food components in the standard declaration of nutrition information. (An insignificant amount of a nutrient is defined as the amount that would show a zero in the nutrition labeling, or "less than 1 gram'' in the case of total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, and protein.) Since the nutrient levels are based on the amount customarily consumed by a person at one "eating occasion" (defined by the FDA as 1/4 teaspoon), most spices do not meet the threshold of having reportable nutrients.


Q: How can I tell if my herbs and spices are still good?
A: The potency of botanical products fades over time at different rates. Grinding exposes more surface area to the air, so ground spices lose their freshness more quickly than whole spices. As you can see in the table below, different parts of the plant age differently as well.

Our bottled spices and blends are freshness dated — the date the product is best used by for maximum freshness is printed on the bottom of each bottle. Check that date for unopened products. For opened packaged products and bulk products, follow the guidelines below:

Whole herbs, spices and seasoning blends
Leaves and flowers — 1 to 2 years
Seeds and barks — 2 to 3 years
Roots — 3 years
Vanilla beans — 2 years
Others — 2 to 3 years

Ground herbs, spices and seasoning blends
Leaves — 1 year
Seeds and barks — 1 year
Roots — 2 years


Q: How long do teas stay good?
A: Teas stored in a cool, dry, airtight, opaque container should be good for up to a year.



Q: What does "certified organic" mean?
A: "Certified organic" is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The act provides for a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that develops and recommends the standards for the National Organic Program (NOP) as administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A certified organic designation means that a state or private certification organization that is accredited by the USDA has verified that the product meets its strict organic standards. The certifier inspects the location where the organic product is produced and handled to ensure that all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards are being followed. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to the local supermarket or restaurant must also be certified and inspected annually to ensure continued compliance. (In order to maintain their accredited certifier status with the USDA, certifiers are required to conduct annual on-site inspections of all their clients.)


Q: Who is your organic certifier?
A: Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia organic products are all certified by the leading third-party organic certifier Quality Assurance International (QAI).


Q: Are organic products produced in other countries required to meet U.S. organic regulations?
A: Yes, all organic products sold as certified organic in the United States are required to follow the U.S. standards and be certified by a USDA-accredited certifier.


Q: What is organic agriculture?
A: In a nutshell, organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm. Or in the words of the National Organics Standard Board, "Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony." More definitions and extensive resource links are available at the USDA's Organic Production and Organic Food: Information Access Tools. Further online resources on organics, sustainability, farm energy and alternative crops (including herbs) can be found in the list of Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) publications.


Q: Can you help me understand certain organic claims? For example, what is the difference between 100% Organic vs. Made with Organic?
A: Here are the basic USDA regulations for the four recognized types of organic claims: Products labeled "100 Percent Organic" must show an ingredients list, the name and address of the handler (bottler, distributor, importer, manufacturer, packer, processor, etc.) of the finished product, and the name/seal of the organic certifier. All ingredients must be certified organic (excluding water and salt). Products labeled "Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The label must contain an ingredient list that identifies the organic, as well as the non-organic, ingredients in the product and the name of the organic certifier. A minimum of 95% of the ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be certified organic, and any non-organic ingredients used must be approved for use in an organic product by the USDA. Products labeled "Made with Organic (specified ingredients or food groups)" must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and up to 30% non-organic agricultural ingredients or other ingredients approved for use in organic products by the USDA. The label must contain an ingredients list that identifies the organic, as well as the non-organic, ingredients in the product, along with the name of the organic certifier. If a product contains less than 70 percent organic ingredients, the product can specify organic ingredients only on the ingredient panel. The product cannot use the word "organic" on the principal display panel or display any organic certifier seals.


Q: Are organic foods more expensive than conventionally grown ones?
A: It's true that organic foods that have the same growing, harvesting, transportation and storage costs as conventional items usually have additional costs associated with stricter growing regulations of organic certification and smaller-scale production that contribute to higher prices. This was dramatically the case when organics first came on the market. But the price gap is continually shrinking as increased demand for organics and a more robust organic supply chain are driving down the cost of organic foods, making them much more competitive with non-organic ones. Furthermore, many argue that from the perspective of the true cost of our food — factoring in all the indirect environmental and social costs of conventional food production, such as cleanup of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils, and costs of health care for farmers and their workers — organic foods are already less costly than those grown with synthetic chemicals.


Q: Is organic food healthier?
A: Organic farming techniques provide a safer, more sustainable environment for everyone — growers, consumers and all of us who share the world environment. There is substantial research suggesting links to cancer and other diseases from the synthetic insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers used on non-organic crops. And the Organic Center provides links to numerous studies that suggest some organically produced foods may be more nutritious than non-organic ones as well.


Q: Are organic products completely free of pesticide residues?
A: The 1995 definition of organic production by the National Organics Standard Board notes that "Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and waters." These methods include buffer zones between conventional and organic fields, a three-year waiting period before previously non-organic land can be used for organic crops and placing organic products in storage on the higher shelves to avoid cross-contamination from non-organic products. Products are tested by certification agencies for contamination in response to a complaint, to spot-check certain crops, or if there is any evidence of contamination. The principal guidelines for organic production require using materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and integrate farming into the whole ecology. 

Essential Oil Quality

Q: What are the most common solvents used to adulterate essential oils? Do they pose any health concerns? 
A: We test extensively to ensure that Aura Cacia essential oils are pure and unadulterated. Solvents used to adulterate essential oils are generally colorless and odorless and therefore not easily detectable without resorting to gas chromatography testing. These solvents range from relatively benign (ethanol) to very hazardous (toluene) chemicals. Regardless of individual health effects, they do not belong in essential oils. They could affect the benefits of the oils, and they may cause allergic or toxic reactions in some individuals.


Q: Do you test all Aura Cacia essential oils? 
A: We test every pre-shipment sample of essential oils before making a purchase. Then, after we purchase an essential oil, every shipment is tested to make sure it continues to meet all quality and purity standards.


Q: What specific tests do you perform for essential oils? 
A: Our essential oil testing includes both physical testing — sensory evaluation, optical rotation and specific gravity — and gas chromatography (GC) testing for every oil. This extensive testing provides complete confidence that our oils are 100% pure and authentic, and we offer a quality guarantee to our customers.


Q: What is a therapeutic grade oil? 
A: There is no such grading system for essential oils. Companies sometimes use this term in marketing to try to differentiate aromatherapy oils from essential oils used in flavoring and food. Aromatherapy oils should be pure, complete and unadulterated high-quality oils. But because the term "therapeutic grade" isn't based on established standards or regulation, it can be — and often is — used without regard to the quality of the oil.


Q: What is the difference between a fragrance oil and an essential oil? 
A: Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, tops, or fruits of plants. They are the highly concentrated, volatile, aromatic components of the plants or plant parts from which they are distilled. A fragrance is a combination of various natural and synthetic aroma chemicals, created in the lab by an aroma chemist. Fragrances attempt to mimic the aroma of an essential oil or the aroma of a plant that doesn't have an essential oil (an apple for example), or to create an entirely new scent. Fragrances are used in perfumery and to scent all types of products, such as toiletries, soaps, room fresheners, paper, tobacco products and paints. Only pure essential oils should be used in aromatherapy. 

Essential Oil Safety

Q: Where are the best places to apply oils for absorption?
A: Essential oils can be applied almost anywhere on the body (avoid the eyes, of course). However, the fastest absorption occurs in areas where you have lots of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. (Many of these are also called pressure points.) The soles of the feet, the wrists, neck and behind the ears are all great spots for applying oils to improve absorption. Warmth also plays a role — your body doesn't absorb oils as well when it's cold. The underarm is also an ideal place to apply oils; it has lots of blood vessels and is also warm.


Q: Can you put undiluted oils directly on your skin?
A: In general, this should be avoided, and oils should only be used with a recommended dilution based on the particular situation of the person and the intended use of the oil (from 1-10%). A few oils, like lavender and tea tree, can occasionally be applied directly, but in general, dilution is always recommended. With any oil we recommend a skin patch test. Always use caution.


Q: Can you use oils in food products?
A: We don't recommend using essential oils for flavoring food at home due to safety concerns.


Q: Why doesn’t Aura Cacia have health benefits on their labels?
A: Aromatherapy products are regulated by the FDA as cosmetics and must conform to cosmetic labeling regulations. Aura Cacia labels all products in compliance with regulations in order to protect users. Not all companies comply with the law — that's why you may see competing products making claims or statements about the product's supposed benefits that you won't see on an Aura Cacia label.


Q: What causes photosensitivity and what oils cause it?
A: Oils that contain furocoumarins can cause skin reactions if used on skin that is then exposed to ultraviolet light. These photosensitive reactions may be as mild as slight reddening of the skin, while severe cases can result in acute lesions known as bullock dermatitis. This dermatitis will resolve itself in a few weeks; however, the accompanying hyper-pigmentation (brown spots on the skin) can take months or years to fully disappear. Bergamot, which contains the furocoumarin bergaptene, is especially likely to cause reactions. We sell bergaptene-free bergamot (bergamot BF) to eliminate this risk. Other oils we carry that might cause photosensitive reactions include ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin orange and tangerine.