US strengthens organic food protocols to fight fraud

US strengthens organic food protocols to fight fraud

US officials unveiled new rules to tighten scrutiny over the growing organic food market

US officials unveiled new rules to tighten scrutiny over the growing organic food market.

The US Department of Agriculture on Thursday unveiled new rules to strengthen oversight of the “organic” label on food, following some significant fraud cases.

The latest rule, the most significant update to US organic food regulations since 1990, tightens certification requirements along the organic food supply chain, requiring certificates for imported goods and strengthening inspection protocols.

To qualify for the rapidly growing organic segment in the United States, food must be produced without the use of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, or genetic engineering.

The purpose of the new rule is to “increase confidence among consumers, farmers and those making the switch to organic production,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, the agency’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

“This achievement is further evidence that the USDA is fully behind the organic brand,” Moffitt said of the policy, which goes into effect March 20.

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales have more than doubled over the past 10 years, reaching $57.5 billion in 2021.

Praising the new rules, OTA said the directive will have “a significant and far-reaching impact on the organic sector and will do a lot to prevent and detect organic fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain”.

In a Federal Registry memo setting out the rule, the USDA cited multiple frauds involving organic foods.

In a 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.

“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.

© 2023 AFP

Citation: US Strengths Organic Food Protocols to Counter Fraud (2023, January 19), retrieved January 19, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-01-food-protocols-counter-fraud.html

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