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Final Organic Standards Issued

January 22, 2001

New standards a positive move in establishing criteria

O n Dec. 20, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman announced the final national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products.

The new organic standard offers a national definition for the term “organic.” It details the methods, practices and substances that can be used in production and handling organic crops and livestock, as well as processed products.

In addition, it establishes clear organic labeling criteria under which products cannot be labeled “organic” if they were produced with the use of genetic engineering methods, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge for fertilization.

“While some will be disappointed with the new Organic Standard, the National Restaurant Association believes that this is a positive step in clearly defining what the term organic means. A national definition of organic is good for the restaurant industry because now we have a clear, common definition of what an organic product is and is not,” says National Restaurant Association Vice President of Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs Steve Grover.

All agricultural products labeled organic must originate from farms or handling operations certified by a state or private agency accredited by U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farms and handling operations that sell less than $5,000 worth per year of organic agricultural products are exempt from certification.

Under the new national standards, foods must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients to be labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients.” The new standards will provide better information for consumers by allowing manufacturers to state the exact percentage of organic ingredients on the principal display panel. In addition, the standards will provide greater flexibility for organic farmers by simplifying requirements for composting of manure and by providing options for dairy operations converting a whole herd to organic production.

Farmers and handlers have 18 months to comply with the national standards. Consumers will begin to see new organic labeling on products in their local grocery stores by the summer of 2001, with full implementation by mid-2002.

Source: Washington Weekly-NRA

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