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Organic foods get clearer standards in UK

28-Jun-2005

Standards for organic foods get an overhaul as the UK's industry body responds to calls for clarification.

The move comes at a time when food manufacturers continue to enjoy strong demand for their organic food products.

 

Annual retail sales of organic foodstuffs have soared tenfold to top €1.51 billion in UK alone in the past decade, encouraging more growers and food makers to get involved.

 

The increase in organic food processing activity has boosted demand, for example, of organic meats to an extent that over half of domestically produced organic pork goes into processed foods.

 

The surge in demand has been particularly evident in organic sausages, ready-meals, and baby food, report market analysts Organic Monitor.

 

Organic production has grown steadily over the last 20 years. In 1985, just 100,000 hectares of EU farm land was certified organic - less than 0.1 per cent of total farm land. By the end of 2002, this figure had risen to 4.4 million ha or 3.3 per cent of total farm land with market worth around €10 billion.

 

According to European law, for a product to be termed 'organic' it must meet the standards of an approved independent control body, which has inspected all aspects of its production.

 

Encouraging new brands and products to embrace organics, the UK's Soil Association rewrote its standards, that explain to licensees what criteria they must fulfill for their products to be certified, to ensure that they were "clear, meaningful and unambiguous".

 

The industry body claims the new standards are written in plain English and have been praised by producers and food companies alike for being "user-friendly and easier to understand."

 

Reflecting the growing popularity of this food sector, food scientists in the UK recently compiled an updated comment on organic food.

 

"The production of organic food requires the same involvement of professional food scientists and technologists and is subject to the same requirements of good manufacturing practice and food safety as the rest of the food industry," says the Institute of Food Science & Technology.