USDA Set to Unveil New Rule Combating Fraudulently Labeled “Organic” Products
On September 13, deputy administrator of USDA’s National Organics Program (NOP), Jennifer Tucker, announced (Subscription to IEG Policy Required) at the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, Maryland that the agency will soon release its new organic enforcement rule with the goal of protecting consumers from food products fraudulently labeled as “organic.” The new rule, which Tucker asserted would have a “profound impact” on both domestic and international markets, would establish tougher accreditation and certification requirements, as well as create a new electronic import certificate system.
Specifically, the new rule will authorize NOP to conduct unannounced inspections and will strengthen the criteria for inspection qualifications, minimum training requirements for inspectors, non-retail labeling, standardized organic certificates, and other data reporting. In addition, companies importing organic food products will be required to submit electronic import certificates through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment portal.
The new rule comes after Congress included a mandate in the 2018 Farm Bill requiring USDA to issue a rule on organic enforcement, following reports of fraudulently labeled imports of corn and soybeans. NOP plans to hire over a dozen new staffers to help implement the rule and keep pace with growing challenges in the organic space.