Posted on March 5, 2019 by Sustainable Food News

Ex-Nat’l Organic Program chief joins OTA’s anti-fraud scheme

New quality assurance program pre-enrollment open for members of Organic Trade Assoc. only

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has launched a new program aimed at fighting fraud in the global organic supply chain.

“Organic now operates in a global market,” said OTA CEO Laura Batcha. “Fraud is one of the biggest threats to that market, and it cannot be tolerated in the organic system.”

The Washington, D.C.-based trade group, representing 9,500 U.S. businesses, is now calling on its members to voluntarily pre-enroll in the new program, called Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions (OFPS).

OTA said the program is not a certification or verification program nor is it a product label. It is a quality assurance program designed to complement and reinforce the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) standards and the work of accredited certifying agencies.

The new program is based on OTA’s tested and completed Organic Fraud Prevention Guide that provides businesses engaged in the selling, buying, producing, processing or packaging of certified-organic products with a risk-based process for developing and implementing a written Organic Fraud Prevention Plan (OFPP) to assure the authenticity of organic products by minimizing vulnerability to organic fraud and mitigating the consequences of occurrence.

More specifically, the guide provides detailed information on what to do when fraud is suspected or detected and on the process for filing a complete and effective complaint to the NOP.

The global organic food and beverage market was worth $97 billion in 2017, up 8 percent over 2016, according to the 2019 edition of the World of Organic Agriculture. The U.S. market accounts for more than half of that value. U.S. organic imports were up 8 percent to $2 billion for the Jan.-Nov. 2018 period, according to the USDA’s latest trade data. Full 2018 organic trade data will be released Wednesday.

Definition of organic fraud: For the purposes of this Guide, organic product fraud can be defined as an intentional misleading or deceptive action carried out for illicit financial gain. Fraudulent acts may include adulteration, substitution, falsified records and the deliberate mislabeling of goods, as well as false statements made on applications, organic system plans, and during inspections. Of primary concern are intentional and economically motivated substitutions and the fraudulent mislabeling of organic products, including fabrication of fraudulent organic certificates. Such misrepresentation may occur at any point along the value chain from the product source to selling point.

The OFPS program requires training and an organic fraud vulnerability assessment, and once a company registers the implementation of its OFPP with the OTA it will be considered “Organic Fraud Prevention Enrolled.”

The enrollment process will be integrated into the organic certification cycle and maintained annually, OTA said.

“Everyone plays a role in preventing organic fraud,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, OTA’s vice president of regulatory and technical affairs. “It is critical that organic businesses have robust systems and measures in place that adequately support the promise of providing organic products that people can trust.”

The list of certified-organic companies that have already enrolled in the program include:

  • Global Organics Ltd. (handler/importer)
  • Grain Millers, Inc. (handler/processor/grains)
  • I Was Thinking (importer/handler/co-packer, grains, seeds, legumes, sweeteners)
  • Naturepedic Organic Mattresses (textile manufacturer/retailer, mattresses, bedding)
  • Organically Grown Company (distributor/produce)
  • Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative (producer/handler/livestock/dairy/meat)
  • Pipeline Foods, LLC (handler/supply chain solutions/feed grains/oilseeds)
  • J.M. Smucker Company (processor/multi-ingredient)
  • Stonyfield (producer/handler/livestock/dairy)
  • True Organic Products, Inc. (manufacturer/fertilizer)

Miles McEvoy’s new consulting firm Lacewing LLC, and organic industry consulting firm Wolf, DiMatteo & Associates, are already pre-enrolled in the OFPS program as Trusted Advisors, a category of professional that will partner with enrolled companies to develop an OFPP.

Trusted Advisors are experts in organic certification as well as in conducting vulnerability assessments and organic fraud mitigation plans.

McEvoy, who stepped down as deputy administrator of the NOP in September 2017 after eight years on the job, began his consulting firm last year.

Only OTA members can pre-enroll in the OFPS program and must be either certified organic or listed with a USDA-recognized organic input review organization such as the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).

The first offered training under the OFPS program will take place in late summer or early fall, said OTA.

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