Biden administration announces action to tackle ‘bio-fraud’

Biden administration announces action to tackle ‘bio-fraud’

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated its organic label regulations to close loopholes and increase confidence in the agency’s organic seal.

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

Soup

Soups with an organic label are displayed for 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 with organic label is displayed for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

The USDA said the new rules, which will be the “biggest update to organic regulations” since 1990, hope to “provide a significant increase in oversight and enforcement powers to build confidence among consumers, farmers and those who rely on them.” switch to ecological production. “

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

The new regulations will tighten certification requirements along the organic food supply chain, require certificates for imported goods and strengthen control protocols.

vegetables

Organic labeled vegetables go on 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 must carry an organic label to “reduce mishandling of organic produce” and “help traceability”.

“Protecting and growing the organic sector and the trusted USDA organic seal is an important part of the USDA initiative to transform food systems,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

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

salad dressing

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

salad

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

In a federal registry notice, the USDA has listed examples of organic food fraud in recent months.

This week, two Minnesota farmers were charged with alleged plans 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 a seven-year period, falsely claiming 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 incorporates more robust traceability and verification practices that would have helped detect and stop this type of fraud earlier, prevent further sale of the fraudulent products, and reduce the impact of the fraud,” the USDA said in the statement.

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