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Alliance Urges USDA to Approve Organic Meat Labels While Waiting Upon National Organic Standards

A public awareness campaign in support of organic meat labeling was recently announced by a national consumer and industry coalition. Headed by Organic Valley, an industry leader in organic livestock and the largest organic farmers' cooperative in North America, the campaign's purpose is to urge USDA to lift its ban on labeling of organic meat before national organic standards are finalized, a process that may take another year or more. Current USDA internal policy prevents labeling of meat and processed eggs as organic, while all other foods under FDA jurisdiction are allowed to posses the organic label. Supporters of the call to action include organic livestock producers, retailers, trade associations and consumer groups, including: the Humane Society.; Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet; the National Campaign Against the Misuse of Pesticides; The Organic Alliance; Petaluma Poultry; Whole Foods; Wild Oats; the Organic Trade Association; and Bob Anderson, head of Walnut Acres and chairman of USDA's National Organic Standards Board. Organic Trade Association Executive Director Katherine DiMatteo believes it is unfair of USDA to withhold organic meat and egg products labeling when all other products can carry an organic label. "The decision to withhold this label by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA has been arbitrary and capricious," she said. The campaign calls on USDA to immediately approve labeling for the organic livestock industry utilizing the present organic certification system. As well, the organic meat label, reflecting existing organic standards, would provide an interim solution until the national standards for organic certification received final approval. The coalition says approval of interim labeling would: allow consumers to make informed food choices based on full information; permit the American organic meat industry to pursue all organic markets; and enable organic meat, poultry and egg producers to compete globally. These same products are organically certified and labeled in Europe and nations around the world, and the coalition says this represents an unfair advantage over U.S. organic livestock producers. A spokesperson for the National Cattleman's Beef Association was not aware of the campaign and as such did not have any comment as of press time. Sales in the organic food industry are pegged at $3.5 billion with a growth rate of 20 percent expected to occur every year. USDA officials project a fourfold increase in the next decade. Additionally, sales have steadily increased by 20 to 26 percent each year over the past seven years as consumers continue to prove that organic is not a fad, but a way of life. Some reasons to embrace organic food is to avoid possible carcinogenic-inducing pesticides and herbicides in foods and ground water, and food safety. Consumers are shopping more consciously wanting to know where their produce has come from and where it has been before being served at their dinner table.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Article Type:Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 1998
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