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Food Labels: Don’t take your eye off the ball

USDA Organic sealYet another article highlights the importance of consumer engagement in food labeling.

According to LancasterOnline.com’s Mary Beth Schweigert, lack of oversight in National Organic Program has created a “chasm between consumer expectations and actual industry practices.” Ms. Schweigert notes the challenges that the NOP, now in its twelfth year, faces in terms of its dual mission to protect agriculture while simultaneously protecting the consumer.

The NOP has drawn significant criticism on its lax pasture requirements – 80,000 public comments to be exact. However, even adequate standards are only as good as the enforcement behind them. Schweigert reports a startlingly low number of citations in the first seven years of the program – only $20,000 for three fraudulent operators in a $23 billion U.S. organic food industry.

National Organic Coalition (an industry watchdog group) policy coordinator Liana Hoodes responded to this issue, explaining that strong national organic regulations are worthless without consistent oversight and enforcement. She added, “It will either clean up its act or get surpassed by many other labels.”

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