AMS to publish rule to strengthen organic enforcement

-The Hagstrom Report

Enforcement of federal rules to fight fraud in the organic food sector would be strengthened under a rule that the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced today it will publish Wednesday in the Federal Register.

Topics addressed in this proposed rule include:

Applicability of the regulations and exemptions from organic certification;

▪ Import certificates;

▪ Recordkeeping and product traceability;

▪ Certifying agent personnel qualifications and training;

▪ Standardized certificates of organic operation;

▪ Unannounced on-site inspections of certified operations;

▪ Oversight of certification activities;

▪ Foreign conformity assessment systems;

▪ Certification of grower group operations;

▪ Labeling of nonretail containers;

▪ Annual update requirements for certified operations;

▪ Compliance and appeals processes; and

▪ Calculating organic content of multi-ingredient products.

The Organic Trade Association praised the rule. “The Organic Trade Association applauds USDA’s and the National Organic Program’s commitment to the integrity of organic, and we thank them for their important endorsement of our Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said in a news release. “Protecting the integrity of organic requires the efforts of all organic stakeholders, both public and private. This historic rulemaking by USDA will do much to protect organic from fraud through tougher enforcement and oversight, as our program helps organic companies put into place on-the-ground systems to deter and prevent fraud.”

OTA noted that the rule requires that an organic fraud prevention plan be included in a certified organic operation’s Organic System Plan.

OTA applauded the requirement and noted that USDA had cited its Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions project as an example of an industry initiative.

USDA invites public comment on the Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule through Oct. 5.