Last week’s Washington Post piece Purity of Federal 'Organic' Label Is Questioned told of increasing problems with the USDA organic certification for food. Many think that the rules for certification are becoming too lax and that many ingredients are being allowed in certified foods that should not be there.

In a USDA certified organic product, 5 percent of the ingredients can be non-organic. There are only certain ingredients that can be used in that 5 percent, however. As MNN’s lifestyle blogger Siel pointed out last week in Changing Organic Standards, the list of those approved non-organic ingredients has grown from 77 items to 245 items since 2002.

Many of these items have been added as larger corporations that own organic labels like Kraft and Dole lobby the USDA through the Organic Trade Association to add ingredients to the list. As ingredients get added, we move further away from the purity that organic foods promise.

In response to this issue, The Washington Post reported on Friday that House approved an agriculture appropriations bill that would provide

$500,000 for the USDA's inspector general to investigate the department's National Organic Program, to determine whether federal standards are being properly observed before farmers and food producers are allowed to use the certified organic label on food products.
Part of the investigation would probe whether those 245 items are “inappropriately being allowed in small amounts into certified organic foods.”

The bill still needs to move through the Senate. Their version does not include the additional $500,000 in funding for the investigation. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who authored the original law that established the USDA organics program, may propose that funding be added to their version when it comes to the Senate floor.  

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