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New USDA rule strengthens oversight of “organic” food and discourages fraud

Fresh produce, grains and other products may be vulnerable to fraud, labeled and sold as organic when they are not.

WASHINGTON. On Thursday, the Department of Agriculture released new food requirements labeled “organic”. The move is aimed at combating fraud and strengthening controls.

The rule reinforces compliance with the USDA’s strict definitions of organic products, which must rely on “natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biological farming practices to the greatest extent possible.”

The rule requires USDA National Organic Program certification for all imported organic food, increases certification for more businesses in the supply chain, and expands inspection, record keeping, tracking, and fraud prevention powers.

The Organic Trade Association, which lobbied for the rule, said it represented the biggest change to organic law since the USDA’s organic food program was created.

OTA officials said in a statement that the regulation will “go a long way to prevent and detect organic fraud and protect organic integrity throughout the supply chain.”

U.S. organic food sales topped $63 billion in 2021, according to the OTA, with consumers willing to pay big bucks for products free of pesticides and other contaminants.

Fresh produce, grains and other products are vulnerable to fraud. This month, Justice Department officials indicted a multi-million dollar scheme to export non-organic grains to the US to be sold as certified organic.

The new rule goes into effect in March and companies will have a year to comply.

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