AMS No. 178-10
Soo Kim (202) 720-7476
WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2010—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service today issued new procedures that will increase the effectiveness of enforcing national organic standards. Operating procedures are now in effect for the National Organic Program (NOP) to ensure that all complaints of alleged violations and civil penalties are consistently handled.
In the past, complaints of alleged standards violations were referred to accredited certifying agents for investigation and enforcement. With the implementation of new procedures, the NOP will collaborate with accredited certifying agents in investigating cases while handling all enforcement actions.
“The changes we are making will ensure that all parties are given due process while increasing the effectiveness of enforcing organic standards,” said Miles McEvoy, NOP deputy administrator. “At the same time we want to take steps so that those who are abiding by the regulations and rightfully marketing their foods as organic are not put at a disadvantage by those falsely labeling their products. It allows us to perform our job of assuring consumers they can trust the USDA organic label.”
The new complaint handling procedures were put into effect as part of a continued effort by the NOP to increase enforcement actions and ensure greater compliance of the organic regulations. Since Jan. 2010, the NOP has closed 87 complaints and issued three civil penalties. The NOP accredits about 100 certifying agents around the world to evaluate agricultural production and handling operations and determine their compliance with the national organic standards.
It is USDA’s policy to investigate all complaints that allege violations of rules and regulations, whether submitted by independent claimants, filed by an accredited certifying agent, or initiated by the NOP itself. Any person may file a complaint if he or she believes a violation has occurred.
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