The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has tightened its rules on organic certification to weed out fraud and increase consumer confidence.

Changes to regulations include more rigorous on-site inspections, increased data collection from organic operators, fraud prevention procedures and import certificates for all organic imports. The new rules also consist of requirements for certification in more parts of the supply chain, including brokers and traders.

The directives, released on Wednesday (January 18), have been dubbed the biggest change to organic regulations since they were published over two decades ago.

“Protecting and growing the organic sector and the trusted USDA organic seal is a key part of the USDA food systems transformation initiative,” said US Department of Agriculture under secretary for marketing and regulatory programmes Jenny Lester Moffitt.

“The strengthening of the organic enforcement rule is the biggest update to the organic regulations since the original act in 1990, providing a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce the trust of consumers, farmers, and those transitioning to organic production.”

US trade body and policy advocate the Organic Trade Association said it “applauds” the “major accomplishment” of strengthening the rules on organic enforcement.

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“This regulation will have significant and far-reaching impacts on the organic sector and will do much to deter and detect organic fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain,” it said.

It added: “The new regulation represents the biggest change to organic regulations since the creation of USDA’s National Organic Program.

“The rule closes gaps in current organic regulations and builds consistent certification practices to prevent fraud and improve the transparency and traceability of organic products. Fraud in the organic system – wherever it occurs – harms the entire organic sector and shakes the trust of consumers in organic.”

The National Organic Coalition, which was also part of the campaign effort for strengthened organic regulation, said the changes were crucial for organic businesses.

Abby Youngblood, Executive Director at the National Organic Coalition “NOC applauds the USDA for their sustained work to bring this rule to completion.

“Organic producers’ livelihoods depend on strong and consistent enforcement of organic regulations. For more than a decade, operations have been undercut by fraudulent products that have no business carrying the organic seal. NOC strongly supports provisions in this rule that will give USDA and certification agencies more authority to crack down on bad actors.”

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