WASHINGTON -- The recent announcement of the final revision of the national organics standards rule leaves retailers poised to realize the benefits of steadfast guidelines governing the production, handling, processing and labeling of organically grown agricultural products. This should enable them to better satisfy the growing demand for processed organic foods.
Announced by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, the rule, which has been 10 years coming, establishes the USDA as the single regulatory entity responsible for enforcing uniform organic certification standards nationwide.
This will eliminate the inconsistencies that have heretofore plagued the industry as autonomous state and private certification agencies operated independently of any universal authority.
Products that have been certified will be emblazoned with a circular seal of approval from the USDA, providing assurance to retailers and consumers regarding the legitimacy of the product.
The rule also allows manufacturers to state the exact percentage of organic ingredients on the package, and grocery merchandisers cannot be held accountable for the true organic content of a box of cereal.
According to Keith Jones, program manager for the national organic program, mainstream retailers, as well as natural food stores, will see the advantages of the new system. "Until now, mainstream retailers might put organic products on the shelves, and unless somebody did a lot of research, they might not really know what was going into them," he explained. "But now the traditional chains can purchase organic products without having to worry about that."
Assuming all goes well during a 60-day review process by Congress, the rule will become effective Feb. 21, 2001, after which there will be an 18-month implementation period.