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Biden Administration Announces Movement to Fight 'Organic Fraud'

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The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated its regulations on organic food labeling, as part of an effort to close loopholes and increase confidence in the agency’s organic seal.

“This update to the USDA organic regulations strengthens oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and sale of organic products.” the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

Soup

Labeled organic soups are offered for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Pepper

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JANUARY 19: Black pepper labeled organic is offered for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

The USDA shared that the new rules, which will be “the biggest update to organic regulations” since 1990, hope to provide “a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to bolster the confidence of consumers, farmers and those transitioning to production.” organic.”

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Previously, the USDA had a strict definition of “certified organic,” allowing the label to be used only for products that meet certain standards for soil quality, animal husbandry practices, pest and weed control, and additive use.

The new rules will tighten certification requirements along the organic food supply chain, require certificates for imported products and strengthen inspection protocols.

Vegetables

Labeled organic vegetables are offered for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Under the new requirements, non-retail packaging will be required to bear organic labeling to “reduce mishandling of organic products” and “support traceability”.

“Protecting and growing the USDA Organic Seal and Trusted Organic Seal is a key part of the USDA Food Systems Transformation Initiative,” said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt.

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The Organic Trade Association praised the new rules, saying the policy “will have significant and far-reaching impacts on the organic sector and will do much to prevent and detect organic fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain.”

Salad dressing

Salad dressing with an organic label goes on sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Salad

Labeled organic vegetables are offered for sale at a grocery store on January 19, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty Images)

In a Federal Register notice, the USDA cited examples of organic food fraud in recent months.

This week, two Minnesota farmers were accused of allegedly planning to sell more than $46 million worth of crops chemically treated as organic between 2014 and 2021.

In another case sued in Iowa in 2019, the defendant sold an estimated $142 million worth of non-organic grain over seven years, incorrectly claiming that the grain was grown organically in Nebraska and Missouri. Four individuals were sentenced to prison in the case.

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“This rule includes more robust traceability and verification practices that would have helped to identify and stop this type of fraud earlier, preventing the further sale of fraudulent products and reducing the impact of the fraud,” the USDA said in the notice.

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