Groundbreaking program represents major step by organic industry to fight fraud
Organic businesses may now voluntarily pre-enroll in a program to help minimize or eliminate organic fraud inside and outside of the United States. The new program is based on the Organic Trade Association’s tested and completed Organic Fraud Prevention Guide that provides businesses engaged in organic trade with a risk-based process for developing and implementing organic fraud mitigation measures.
“Fraud in the global organic supply chain poses a significant threat to the integrity of the organic brand,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association. “For the past two years, the Organic Trade Association has prioritized significant time and resources into organic fraud prevention solutions. We are fighting fraud on many fronts, including through the 2018 Farm Bill and through private sector initiatives. The more companies that join this industry-driven program, the stronger the organic supply chain will be.”
The global organic market has been on a steady rise for more than two decades, and has never been bigger. It is now an almost $90 billion market, with the American organic market alone accounting for close to $50 billion. Organic imports into the United States in 2017 totaled around $2.1 billion, up nearly 25 percent from the previous year. In recent years, however, investigations have revealed imported products fraudulently labeled as organic, and gaps in the complex organic supply chain.
Organic stakeholders already stepping up
Already, several organic companies have pre-enrolled in the program. These companies participated in a three-month pilot project last year that tested the program at their operations. The businesses represent the entire organic supply chain, from farm to processor and a diverse range of products, services and commodities including fresh produce, grain, dairy, eggs, meat, beverages, packaged and prepared foods, fiber and textiles, importers and consulting services. The pre-enrolled companies are:
- 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 Co. (distributor/produce)
- Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative (producer/handler/livestock/dairy/meat)
- Pipeline Foods LLC (handler/supply chain solutions/feed grains/oilseeds)
- J.M. Smucker Co. (processor/multi-ingredient)
- Stonyfield (producer/handler/livestock/dairy)
- True Organic Products Inc. (manufacturer/fertilizer)
Consulting firms Wolf, DiMatteo & Associates and Miles McEvoy, Lacewing LLC have also pre-enrolled in the program as trusted advisers, a category of professionals that may qualify and partner with Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions and work with enrolled companies to develop an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan. Trusted advisers are experts in organic certification as well as in conducting vulnerability assessments and organic fraud mitigation plans.
Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions establishes a framework and formal process for businesses to create continuously improving internal programs for achieving organic integrity throughout their associated supply chains. The program requires training, an organic fraud vulnerability assessment and the development of an organic fraud prevention plan. After a company successfully registers with the Organic Trade Association with the implementation of the organic fraud prevention plan, the company will be considered “Organic Fraud Prevention Enrolled.” The enrollment process is integrated into the organic certification cycle and maintained annually.
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 USDA’s organic standards and the work of the accredited certifying agencies.
“Everyone plays a role in preventing organic fraud,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the Organic Trade Association and staff coordinator for the association’s Global Organic Supply Chain Integrity (GOSCI) Task Force, the 48-member task force formed two years ago to develop the fraud prevention program. “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.”
To pre-enroll, a company must be an Organic Trade Association member and either certified organic or listed with a USDA recognized Material Review Organization such as Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI). Eligible operations include farmers, handlers, processors, distributors, traders, retailers and input manufacturers. There are also opportunities for accredited certifiers, consultants and advisers that would like to partner in the program. Pre-enrollment initiates the process, and signs the eligible company up for the first offered training that will take place in late summer or early fall.
“Our Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program will become the industry standard reference for excellence and achieving integrity across complex organic global supply chains,” said Batcha. “We all have a responsibility to fight fraud, and the Organic Trade Association is doing everything in its power to address the problem.”