The new, stricter rules, which will impact what can (and can't) be labeled as organic, go into effect on March 20. Food producers will have a full year to comply.
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Young woman returned with purchases from grocery store takes fresh organic vegetables out of mesh bag putting on kitchen table at home close view
Credit: Maria Korneeva / GETTY IMAGES

Eating organically has become a desirable lifestyle choice for many households over the past couple decades. But despite how popular organic food is, the standards for products that are considered organic haven't been updated for the past 30 years. However, that's all about to change according to a recent press release by the United States Department of Agriculture, which states the agency is planning to toughen its regulation of organic products for the first time since 1990.

"The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the biggest update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990, providing a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce the trust of consumers, farmers, and those transitioning to organic production. This success is another demonstration that USDA fully stands behind the organic brand," Jenny Lester Moffitt, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs for the USDA said in a statement.

The rule strengthens the oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic products by increasing inspections, improving record keeping, and requiring more certification of businesses. The amendments aim to build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label—so when you go to buy something organic, it actually is.

This updated guidance is a key step against greenwashing in the food industry: "The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is confident in the integrity and value of the USDA organic seal. Consumers can trust the organic label due to a rigorous oversight system that operates globally. However, the challenges of modern organic supply chains demand action to strengthen enforcement and uphold the integrity of the USDA organic label," the rule states.

The updated guidelines will go into effect on March 20 and those impacted will have a full year to comply with the new regulations. According to the USDA, groups affected by the rule include: USDA-accredited certifying agents, organic inspectors, certified organic operations, operations considering organic certification, businesses that import or trade organic products, and retailers that sell organic products

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