The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new requirements for “organic,” labeled

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new requirements for “organic,” labeled, a move aimed at combating fraud.
And enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. The amendments protect integrity in the organic supply chain and build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm to market traceability, and providing robust enforcement of the USDA organic regulations. Topics addressed in this rulemaking include: applicability of the regulations and exemptions from organic certification; National Organic Program 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 producer group operations; labeling of non retail containers; annual update requirements for certified operations; compliance and appeals processes; and calculating organic content of multi-ingredient products.
The rule strengthens the USDA’s enforcement of a strict definition of organic, which must rely to the greatest extent possible on “natural substances and physical, mechanical or biologically-based farming methods.”

The rule requires all imported organic foods to be certified by USDA’s National Organic Program, increasing certification by more companies in the supply chain and strengthening the authority for inspection, record keeping, traceability and fraud prevention practices.

The Organic Trade Association, which lobbied for the rule, said it was the most significant change to organic regulations since the creation of the USDA Organic Foods Program.

In a statement, OTA officials said the regulations “will go a long way toward preventing and detecting organic fraud and protecting the integrity of organics throughout the supply chain.”

U.S. organic food sales will top $63 billion by 2021, according to OTA, and consumers are willing to pay premium prices for products free from pesticides and other contaminants.

Fresh produce, grains and other groceries are vulnerable to fraud. This month, Justice Department officials indicted a multimillion-dollar scheme to export non-organic grains into the U.S. to be sold as certified organic produce.

The new rules will take effect in March, and companies have a year to comply.

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