Federal Rules Tighten Around Organic Food

Eliminating fraud is one driver, though some advocates say the rules don't go far enough
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2023 6:20 PM CST
Federal Rules Tighten Around Organic Food
A shopper looks over eggs last week at a grocery store in Glenview, Ill.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Responding to pressure from the industry, which faces rapidly increasing demand, the US Agriculture Department on Thursday updated its rules for what makes food products organic. The updates are intended to eliminate gaps that let certain products into the supply chain though they contain disallowed ingredients, the Washington Post reports. The USDA changes are "the single largest revision to the organic standards since they were published in 1990," said Tom Chapman of the Organic Trade Association. They should increase consumer confidence in "organic" labeling, he said.

In the past 10 years, organic food sales have more than doubled in the US, reaching $61.9 billion in 2020, according to the trade group. Many consumers seem to see the "organic" label as meaning "healthy," per the Post, but the research isn't definitive. Now, more businesses in the supply chain will have to be certified as organic. All organic products arriving in the US will carry an import certificate from the USDA's National Organic Program, per the Hill.

The Justice Department has prosecuted people taking advantage of the holes in the system, including a case brought this month involving a plan to charge organic prices for nonorganic soybeans imported from Eastern Europe. Some advocates said the updated regulations won't do enough to stop fraud. Mark Kastel of OrganicEye, an advocacy group, pointed out that 12 years elapsed between the time Congress approved the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990 and the USDA issued any regulations. "I'm quite concerned that everyone is going to declare victory and go home," he said. (More organic food stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.