Biden administration announces action to fight ‘organic fraud’

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated its regulations for organic food labels, as part of an effort to close loopholes and increase confidence in the agency’s organic label.

“This update to USDA’s organic regulations strengthens oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic products.” the agency said in a statement Thursday.

soup

Organic-labeled soups will go on sale January 19, 2023 at a grocery store in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Pepper

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 19: Organic labeled black pepper goes on sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

The USDA shared that the new rules, which will be “the largest organic regulatory update” since 1990, hope to provide “significant increases in oversight and enforcement authority to enhance the confidence of consumers, farmers and those transitioning to organic.” boost production.”

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Previously, the USDA had a strict definition of “certified organic,” which allowed the label to be used only for products that met certain standards for soil quality, animal breeding practices, pest and weed control, and the use of additives.

The new rules will tighten certification requirements in the organic food supply chain, require certificates for imported goods and strengthen inspection protocols.

Vegetables

Organic labeled vegetables will go on sale January 19, 2023 at a supermarket in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Under the new requirements, non-retail containers will be required to carry organic labels to “reduce mishandling of organic products” and “support traceability.”

“Protecting and growing the organic industry and USDA’s trusted organic seal of approval is an important part of the USDA Food Systems Transformation initiative,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, secretary of state for marketing and regulatory programs.

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The Organic Trade Association praised the new rules, saying the policy will have “significant and far-reaching implications for the organic sector and will do much to deter and detect organic fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain. “

Salad dressing

Organic-labeled salad dressing goes on sale January 19, 2023 at a supermarket in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Salad

Organic labeled vegetables will go on sale January 19, 2023 at a supermarket in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

In a Federal Register notice, the USDA has provided examples of organic food fraud in recent months.

This week, two Minnesota farmers were charged with allegedly planning to sell more than $46 million worth of chemically treated crops as organic between 2014 and 2021.

In another case prosecuted in Iowa in 2019, the defendant sold approximately $142 million worth of non-organic grain over seven years, falsely claiming that the grain was organically grown in Nebraska and Missouri. Four people were sentenced to prison terms in the case.

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“This rule includes more robust traceability and verification practices that would have helped identify and stop this type of fraud sooner, preventing further sales of the fraudulent products and reducing the impact of the fraud,” the USDA said in the notice.

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