Natural Foods Merchandiser

Comments Invited on Fiber Standards

There's still time to comment on the Organic Trade Association's draft standards for organic fiber. The final draft and feedback form will be available at until Aug. 4. Anyone may weigh in, not just OTA members, said Executive Director Katherine DiMatteo.

The document covers proposed American standards for post-harvest handling, processing, record keeping and labeling. The proposed standards include the same nomenclature used to label organic foods: "Made With Organic" for 70 percent certified organic fiber; "Organic" for 95 percent; and "100% Organic" for 100 percent.

Ann Arbor, Mich., consultant Peter Murray drafted the standards, while Lynn Coody of Eugene, Ore., contributed expertise in chemistry and fiber processing. OTA's Quality Assurance Committee and Fiber Council will review the draft, then submit it to the OTA board for approval. Because so many processes and substances are used on fiber, Murray said, drafters made at least a dozen revisions—a T-shirt may take five discrete manufacturing steps in five different locations.

Few natural dyes are commercially available, so the standards call for "proven low-impact dyes" that don't release harmful chemicals. "Materials was a very sticky point," he said. "That, and the aspect of certification."

Some advocates lobbied for a shorter certification time than the 18 months the draft standards recommend after approval. "We felt that the federal government gave the food industry 18 months," DiMatteo says. "It seemed reasonable."

Establishing standards will strengthen an industry that is young and full of small companies, Murray believes, and help producers move toward economies of scale.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 8/p. 11

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