When Organically Grown Company (OGC), one of the nation’s largest organic produce distributors, received a shipment of allegedly organic Roma tomatoes from Mexico in December, it reached out to USDA-accredited, organic certificiation agency SCS Global Services (SCS) to verify that the product was actually organic.
The inquiry from OGC triggered a chain of events that eventually led to the suspension of organic produce grower MCA Organics, S.A. de C.V. in Sonora, Mexico. According to a final notice of suspension resulting from appeals, released over the weekend by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), MCA handled organically grown Roma tomatoes at a location that was not certified for organic handling, and then labeled and sold the tomatoes as organic.
The suspension notice was signed on July 27 by Bruce Summers, the administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which oversees the NOP, and was one of five suspension notices released by the NOP over the weekend.
Organic operations that are denied certification from a certifier or that receive a proposed notice of suspension or revocation may appeal that proposed notice to the AMS Administrator. The AMS Administrator may sustain or deny an appeal, or AMS may choose to enter into a settlement agreement that achieves the goal of compliance. If the AMS Administrator denies an appeal, the operation or certifier may request a hearing with a USDA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
MCA did not request a hearing before an ALJ, according to the NOP.
The other four final notices of suspension resulting from appeals, two of which requested an ALJ hearing, include:
- Joel Cross (pdf) – hearing requested – dated June 26
- The Ostrom Mushroom Company dba Ostrom Mushroom Farms (pdf) – dated June 19
- Wicmar Dairy (pdf) – dated April 13
- Kingsley Brothers (pdf) – hearing requested dated – April 10