Posted on October 25, 2018 by Sustainable Food News

Nat’l Organic Program audit shows agency overwhelmed by complaints, enforcement actions

Overseas organic certifiers don't understand, follow residue sampling procedures, audit finds

The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) lacks the personnel to handle the growing number of complaints it receives and take the enforcement actions necessary to maintain the integrity of the organic seal, according to an audit by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

ANSI had audited the NOP’s oversight process for organic certifiers in 2017 with a specific focus on noncompliances, complaints, and fraud. ANSI sought to assess the gaps in the NOP’s current system compared to the new ISO17011:2017, a quality standard that applies to accreditation bodies like the NOP.

Jennifer Tucker, the NOP’s deputy administrator, laid out the results of the audit during a presentation in St. Paul, Minn., at the fall meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the 15-member panel recommending organic policy to the NOP.

The ANSI audit, she said, showed that procedures for residue sampling were not clearly understood or followed by international certifiers and satellite offices.

Other areas for improvement that ANSI pointed out to the NOP in its audit included:

  • NOP does not have an sufficient number of auditors
  • NOP’s organizational chart does not have a Quality Manager
  • NOP should develop a document summarizing its relationships with other organizations to document ways to avoid conflicts of interest
  • Certifier satellite offices are not audited frequently enough
  • NOP should establish stronger quantitative objectives and key performance indicators to effectively measure and monitor goals
  • Several documents did not comply with document control procedure
  • accreditation certificate does not identify all premises from which key activities are performed and the certifiers’ physical addresses
  • Terms of Accreditation do not contain specific terms describing use of the seal
  • NOP does not have a separate license agreement for the seal
  • NOP should provide additional training opportunities to NOP staff and auditors in the areas of risk assessment and investigative methods for fraud prevention
  • Certifier audit trail exercises do not always provide adequate detail to verify and fully document the audit trail including full supply chain

Tucker said the NOP would be taking the following actions in the coming fiscal year:

  • hiring a Quality Manager (approved)
  • Hiring additional auditors (approved)
  • launching Learning Management System: will include import oversight topics (audit trails, trace-back, mass balance); residue sampling, testing, and analysis topics
  • continuing to refine audit planning based on available resources

Check out Tucker’s presentation here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *