New USDA rule boosts scrutiny of ‘organic’ foods, targets fraud

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The agriculture department on Thursday issued new requirements for food labeled organic, a measure aimed at tackling fraud and increasing oversight.

The rule strengthens enforcement of the USDA’s strict definitions of organic, which must rely as much as possible on “natural substances and physical, mechanical, or organic farming methods.”

The rule requires USDA’s National Organic Program certification for all imported organic foods, increases the certifications of more companies in the supply chain, and increases authority for inspections, record keeping, traceability and fraud prevention practices.

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The Organic Trade Association, which lobbied for the rule, said it represents the biggest change in organic regulation since the creation of the USDA organic food program.

OTA officials said in a statement that the regulation “will do much to deter and detect biological fraud and protect biological integrity throughout the supply chain.”

According to OTA, sales of organic food in the US will exceed $63 billion by 2021, with consumers willing to pay big bucks for products free of pesticides and other contaminants.

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Fresh produce, grains and other foodstuffs are vulnerable to fraud. This month, Justice Department officials filed charges under a multimillion-dollar scheme to export non-organic grain to the US to be sold as a certified organic product.

The new rule will take effect in March and companies will have one year to comply.

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The The Bharat Express News Health and Science division is supported by the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The TBEN is solely responsible for all content.

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