The European Union's Council of Ministers has approved a new regulation on organic food production and labelling.

The move, agreed yesterday (12 June), is designed to better regulate a sector that has come under criticism from consumer groups for lacking standardisation.

The new law will have far reaching effects for food manufacturers, applying equally to all stages of organic food production, including processing, packaging and labelling.

Under its terms, from 2009 organic products that have a minimum 95% organic content will have to carry an EU organic logo, although this can be accompanied by national and/or private logos. Currently, the officially authorised EU organic farming label is not compulsory, and national standards have differed, leading to some confusion among consumers.

Also, under the new harmonised EU-system, non-organic products can list organic ingredients on labels. As for the controversial topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their deliberate use in organic foods will remain prohibited, but a limit of 0.9% accidental GMOs in a food product was backed by ministers. Food irradiation will also be banned for organic products.

Manufacturers of EU-organic labelled products will also have to list where organic ingredients were produced, including information on imported organic products.

The regulation will also cover organic aquaculture, wine, seaweed and yeasts.