Organic labeling

USDA is expected to issue a second draft of its organic labeling regulations by the end of the year. Bowing to pressure from the organics industry, the latest draft will include a stricter definition of what can be labeled organic.

Appalled by USDA's first draft regs released in December 1997, the organics industry mounted an intense campaign, which included 275ꯠ comments to USDA, to tighten the rules. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has agreed to exclude from organic labeling foods subjected to irradiation, foods that contain genetically engineered crops, or foods grown using sewage sludge as fertilizer. In a July speech, he also said the proposed rule would include no synthetic materials that have not been approved by the National Organic Standards Board, an industry advisory group. Organic advocates worry the regs will contain loopholes that will allow companies more interested in profits than purity to label products as organic that don't meet the definition of organic. "The biggest problem for industry and regulators is to come together on an acceptable level of standards," said Jonathan Altman, CEO of Putney Pasta, a Vermont processor of organic food products. "Right now, the industry has higher standards than the government." A final rule is expected in late fall 1999.

More in Coding, printing & labeling