START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
582,278 people care about Real Food

California to Crack Down on Organic Food Fraud

California to Crack Down on Organic Food Fraud

Is that organic-labeled avocado you bought at the grocery store really organic? What about those “all natural, pesticide-free” heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market, or that organic-labled cheese from your CSA? If a product that was labeled organic wasn’t really organic, how would you know? 

TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA to raise the standards on organic labeling.

The USDA Organic certification program was established to ensure that products that are labeled organic meet certain federal guidelines for organically grown food. But apparently, some unscrupulous food producers have been slipping through cracks in the USDA regulatory system for years, unfairly competing with responsible organic farmers, and confusing consumers about which foods are truly organic.

In March 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released an audit report strongly encouraging the National Organic Program, the federal regulatory body charged with overseeing the USDA’s organic certification system, to work harder to enforce the USDA’s organic labeling requirements.

The report noted that some farms and food producers have been flouting the USDA’s organic certification guidelines by falsely labeling produce that has not been certified by the USDA as certified organic. Other ostensibly organic farms have managed to violate USDA organic standards repeatedly without having their certifications revoked.

Though the National Organic Program can and does punish these violators with bad publicity, revoked licenses and fines, under new leadership and guidance from the Obama administration, the USDA wants government food inspectors to respond more swiftly and decisively to organic food fraud allegations.

The audit report focused particular attention on the state of California, which grows more organic produce than any other state in the U.S. The California Department of Food and Agriculture runs its own organic certification program, the California Organic Program, that has been granted the authority by the NOP to issue its own organic certifications based on USDA organic guidelines.

According to the USDA, the California Organic Program has not kept sufficent records of complaints filed against farmers and food producers for failing to meet organic standards. The COP has also failed to perform farm inspections in a timely fashion, and has failed to adequately test organic-labeled produce for pesticide residues as required by federal law. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has recently responded to criticism by vowing to crack down on farmers and food producers who violate the terms of their organic certification agreements, deliberately mislabel non-organic food as certified organic, or use confusing label language to mislead consumers into purchasing non-organic foods at organic prices. 

On June 25th, the CDFA proposed a new set of rules for the California Organic Program that should make it much harder for fraudulent farmers and food producers to escape detection, while protecting responsible organic farmers who pay for certification and practice proper organic agriculture from having to compete with less scrupulous food producers who break the rules.

Under the new regulations, the COP would be required to begin investigating complaints about organic fraud within seven days, and to report the results of that investigation within 60 days. The state of California would also, under the new guidelines, increase random inspections of farms that sell organic-labeled produce, and collect samples from organic food producers for analysis at its own labs.

On June 30th, 2010 the CDFA held a public meeting to discuss the issue of organic food fraud, and the agency plans to hold a public hearing to discuss the new regulations on August 10th.

The organic farmers’ trade association (and one of the country’s oldest and largest independent organic certification organizations), California Certified Organic Farmers, supports the new regulations. Executive director Peggy Miars recently said to the AP, “Only with reliable enforcement can we assure customers of the high integrity of the organic foods they buy and eat.”

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo: Organic Mustard, copyright Jaelithe Judy. Used with permission.

quick poll

vote now!

Loading poll...

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

164 comments

+ add your own
4:34PM PDT on Oct 27, 2010

thanks

9:51PM PDT on Sep 23, 2010

Today the local Los Angeles news had a story investigating farmers markets. The investigation found that many farmers sold food with signs stating that no pesticides are used, but many do have pesticides based on testing. It was also found that some of the sellers were buying produce at the local wholesale market and reselling it. That is illegal. Basically, you have to really check out who you buy from at farmers markets.

1:32PM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

Just shop at your local farmers market. It might be expensive, but you know that you don't have to deal with the major corruptions that relate with big farms. And stop GMOs, they're mystery foods.

7:57AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

thanks

4:48AM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

thanks for sharing this

11:57AM PDT on Aug 6, 2010

I bought organic celery for the first
time in my life. It was the nastiest tasting celery I ever had this has tainted me on buying organic.I will just have to try and stay healthy eating genetically modified food.

10:22AM PDT on Aug 3, 2010

Thanks for the info, petition already signed.

11:38AM PDT on Aug 2, 2010

How do we know it is really organic anyways?

10:29AM PDT on Aug 2, 2010

noted

3:10PM PDT on Aug 1, 2010

Guess what?
The US and Canada have recently harmonized their organic standards. It's called equivalency. In the name of freer trade, all standards are being reduced. This is an international issue. and, with the prevalence of GMO crops, it won't be long before the possibility of producing organic foods, free of GMOs won't be possible. Organic farms surrounded by GMO farms can't keep the stuff out. The ONLY solution is to STOP GMOS.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free
CONTACT THE EDITORS

Recent Comments from Causes

Suba: I am sure you know that bullying is BIG problem for children in the world and it is best to teach…

See what I said about making sh*t up? The Queen of Intellectual Dishonest actually has the audacity…

Naturally, since I "adopted" an orangutan, who lives in a shelter in Sumatra, Indonesia, I'm delighted…

meet our writers

Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
ads keep care2 free

more from causes




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.