Food Safety: USDA NOP Updates, Introduction (1 of 6)

Over the past few years the significant rise in food safety and security issues - not only in the meat industry, but also in the produce industry - has alerted at least some of the public to take notice about accountability in the industrial food system. The obvious response has been to move toward more organic choices. The National Organic Program (NOP) has put out a draft summary of things they are looking to correct within a system that can sometimes lend to safety and security failure. This draft has been made open to the public for edit.  From the Federal Register, Vol 75, No. 197, the following request:

To ensure that NOP considers your comment on this draft guidance before it begins work on the final version of the guidance, submit written comments on the draft guidance by December 13, 2010.

Interested persons may comment on these five draft guidance documents using the following procedures:

  • Internet: http://www.regulations.gov  (enter “AMS-NOP-10-0048” in the Keyword or ID Search) via the instructions in the Federal Register Notice.
  • Mail: Comments may be submitted by mail to: Toni Strother, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, National Organic Program, USDA–AMS–NOP, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 2646 So., Ag Stop 0268, Washington, DC 20250–0268.
  • Comments submitted in writing or in electronic form will be posted on the NRC Web site and on the Federal rulemaking Web site http:// www.regulations.gov. Because your comments will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact information, the NRC cautions you against including any information in your submission that you do not want to be publicly disclosed.

The next several articles will discuss the meat of the five drafts which consider compost, wild crops, organic poultry, contamination and the use of chlorine.

The introductory draft is fairly to the point. These articles were drafted as preventative measures in response to the March 2010 Audit performed by the Inspector General's Office (OIG), where they detected specific oversight issues within the Organic Industry. What they are looking to do is improve consistency and prevent contamination by using recommendations issued by the National Organic Standards Board.

This seems like a good, proactive measure to ensure that the Organic Industry doesn't fall prey to some of  the same failures of industrial farming. Equally impressive is the invitation to comment on the drafts; it seems an important and timely matter as the recall list grows longer by the hour.

At the 2010 Local Foods Conference, Gus Shumacher expressed a similar idea when he said that (paraphrased) the responsibility of organic farmers is of utmost importance so that we can build a relationship of trust; once that trust is established it is crucial that it isn't broken by taking cheap shortcuts that have proven to be dangerous to the general public.  It would be nice to see all food to be treated with this kind of respect, but it's absolutely pivotal of the future success of food safety and certified organic food in the marketplace.