The USDA strengthens oversight of organic rules

Fresh produce, grains and other foods can be susceptible to fraud and may be labeled and sold as organic when they are not.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Agriculture released Thursday new requirements for food labeled as organic, a move aimed at tackling fraud and improving oversight.

The rule strengthens enforcement of the USDA’s strict regulations Definitions of organicwhich “must rely to the greatest possible extent on natural substances and on physical, mechanical or biological management methods”.

The rule requires USDA National Organic Program certification for all imported organic food, increases certifications from more companies in the supply chain, and strengthens authority over inspections, records, traceability, and fraud prevention practices.

The Organic Trade Association, which lobbied for the rule, said it represents the biggest change in organic regulations since the USDA’s organic food program was created.

OTA officials said in a statement that the regulation “will do much to prevent and detect organic fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain.”

According to OTA, U.S. organic food sales surpassed $63 billion in 2021, with consumers willing to pay top dollar for products free from pesticides and other contaminants.

Fresh produce, grains and other groceries are vulnerable to fraud. This month, Justice Department officials filed charges in a multimillion-dollar scheme to export non-organic grains to the United States to be sold as certified organic produce.

The new rule goes into effect in March and companies have one year to comply. The USDA strengthens oversight of organic rules

Laura Coffey

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