Washington state’s Organic Food Program is proposing changes to its organic handler standards that will benefit consumers by enhancing the integrity of organic food products.

Comments on the proposal will be heard from 1-2 p.m. Dec. 6 in Room 205 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St., Olympia. Written comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. the same day.

The proposed changes will clarify how retailers may obtain certification. In addition, the rules contain restrictions on the storage of organic food products with conventionally treated products. Approved post-harvest materials will include acetic acid, ascorbic acid, biological control organisms, ozone, periacetic acid, and microorganisms. Revisions will also specify how handlers can label and represent organic food products so as not to mislead consumers. Handlers include produce and grocery distributors, fruit packers, marketing companies, brokers, warehouse operations and retailers.

“Washington’s Organic Food Program is recognized for both the quality of its standards and its comprehensive certification process,” said Miles McEvoy, manager of the Organic Food Program at Department of Agriculture. “The proposed changes will not only bring clarity to the current standards, but will help to maintain domestic and international market acceptance for Washington organic food products.”

Program staff worked with the Organic Advisory Board on the proposed amendments to the handler rules. The advisory board is made up of organic industry members, including farmers, packers, processors, consumers and farm suppliers. Technical information regarding compliance with organic handler standards is available from Organic Food Program staff.

For a copy of the proposed rules, call Miles McEvoy at 360/902-1924. Send written comments to: Washington State Department of Agriculture, Organic Food Program, PO Box 42560, Olympia, WA 98504-2560. Comments may be sent by FAX 360/902-2087 or e-mail mmcevoy@agr.wa.gov. Information on the Organic Food Program is available on the Internet at www.wa.gov/agr/fsah/organic/ofp.htm.