WASHINGTON — The Organic Trade Association on March 6 launched an Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program that aims to minimize or eliminate organic fraud in trading both inside and outside the United States. The J.M. Smucker Co.; Stonyfield, a business unit of Lactalis; and Grain Millers, Inc. are 3 of 10 companies that have pre-enrolled in the program.
“Fraud in the global organic supply chain poses a significant threat to the integrity of the organic brand,” said Laura Batcha, chief executive officer 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.”
Organic imports into the United States in 2017 totaled about $2.1 billion, nearly a 25% increase from the previous year, according to the association. Fraudulent acts, according to the O.T.A., include adulteration, substitution, falsified records and the deliberate mislabeling of goods, as well as false statements made on applications, organic system plans and during inspections. A story in The Washington Post in May 2017 detailed how 36 million lbs of soybeans were mislabeled as organic sometime during transit from Ukraine to Turkey to California.
The O.T.A.’s program requires training, an organic fraud vulnerability assessment and developing an organic fraud prevention plan. The voluntary program is a quality assurance initiative and not a certification or verification program, nor is it a product label.
The Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program is based on the association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Guide, which provides a process for developing and implementing organic fraud mitigation measures.
Companies that have pre-enrolled in the fraud prevention program are Global Organics Ltd.; Grain Millers, Inc.; I Was Thinking; Naturepedic Organic Mattresses; Organically Grown Co.; Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative; Pipeline Foods, L.L.C.; J.M. Smucker Co.; Stonyfield; and True Organic Products, Inc.
Consulting firms Wolf, DiMatteo & Associates and Miles McEvoy, Lacewing L.L.C. have pre-enrolled as “trusted advisers,” which refers to 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.
To pre-enroll, a company must be an O.T.A. member and either certified organic or listed with a U.S. Department of Agriculture-recognized Material Review Organization such as O.M.R.I. (Organic Material Review Institute). Eligible operations include farmers, handlers, processors, distributors, traders, retailers and input manufacturers.
While program fees range from $320 to $6,000, 99% of O.T.A. members would pay between $320 to $1,280. O.T.A. members receive a 20% discount. Enrollment steps include pre-enrollment and receipt of the Organic Food Prevention Guide, training, registration (fee required), initial screening and vulnerability assessment, vulnerability assessment review, developing and implementing organic fraud mitigation measures, collating an organic fraud prevention plan, updating the company’s existing organic system plan, obtaining confirmation from a company’s certifier, and enrollment completion and public recognition. Training, which is free to O.T.A. members, will be offered in the late summer or early fall.
Accredited certifiers, consultants and advisers also will have opportunities to work with the program.
“Our Organic Fraud Preventions Solutions program will become the industry standard reference for excellence and achieving integrity across complex organic global supply chains,” Ms. Batcha said. “We all have a responsibility to fight fraud, and the Organic Trade Association is doing everything in its power to address the problem.”