Transparency and integrity are tenets of organic agriculture and the USDA’s National Organic Program. With the food safety scares of the past 12–24 months, you will find that those growing and manufacturing organic products will be even more focused on maintaining and improving transparency and company integrity. USDA-certified producers and manufacturers must keep rigorous documentation to qualify for the green-and-white organic label—including detailed accountings of growing, handling, and manufacturing operations. In this way, organic is poised to comply with any new food safety regulations.
Currently there are a handful of bills addressing food safety working their way through Washington D.C. The two that are getting the most attention are H.R. 875 (Food Safety Modernization Act) and H.R. 759 (Food Safety Enhancement Act). Both look to improve the processing, manufacturing, and traceability of food. No matter which one rises to the top, it will have an impact on organic production by adding a layer of compliance and accountability.
Also in the works are plans to expand the Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreements nationwide (both California and Arizona have initiated it as a response to the 2006 E. coli spinach outbreak). This food safety endeavor will impact organic—particularly small organic growers—more than any other initiative. Smaller producers argue that the LGMA favors large-scale operations.
As we look for safe food, we need clear, concise information to navigate what organic means. The Organic Trade Association’s recently launched “Organic. It’s worth it.” consumer education campaign seeks to address this. And you can stay abreast of weekly organic news at the Delicious Living blog (http://blog.deliciouslivingmag.com/blog).