Biden administration announces move to fight ‘organic fraud’

Biden administration announces move to fight ‘organic fraud’

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

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

Soup

Soups labeled organic go on sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Pepper

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 19: Black pepper labeled organic 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 update to organic regulations” since 1990, are expected to “significantly increase oversight and enforcement authority to increase the confidence of consumers, farmers and those transitioning to organic production.” boost.”

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

The new rules will strengthen the certification requirements along the organic food supply chain, requiring certificates for imported goods and beef inspection protocols.

Vegetables

Vegetables labeled organic are for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Under the new requirements, non-retail containers will have to sport organic labeling to “reduce mishandling of organic products” and “support traceability.”

“Protecting and growing the organic sector and the USDA Trusted Organic Seal are a key part of USDA’s Food System Transformation initiative,” said Assistant Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt.

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

Salad dressing

A salad dressing labeled organic is on sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Salad

Vegetables labeled organic are for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

In a Federal Register announcement, the USDA cited 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 in non-organic grain over seven years, falsely claiming that the grain was grown organically in Nebraska and Missouri. Four people were sentenced to prison in the case.

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“This rule includes stronger traceability and verification practices that would help identify and stop this type of fraud earlier, thus preventing the further sale of the fraudulent products and reducing the impact of the fraud,” said the USDA in the ad.

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