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Good Organic Retail Practices 2022 Guide

What are the requirements all retailers must follow?

Retail operations function not only as handlers of organic products, but also as purchasers, verifiers, and marketers. Unlike most businesses in the organic supply chain, retail operations may not be required to undergo the rigorous process of organic certification. However, independent of certifications, retailers are required to maintain the integrity of organic products from receiving until final sale and ensure accurate and truthful labeling of these products at all times. In addition to the handling requirements, most uncertified retailers will also need to maintain records for three years on organic sales and be able to complete a mass balance to verify the quantities of organic product match the amount sold.

The requirements for retailers, as explained in the organic regulations can be distilled down to the following. 

  • As a retail establishment:
  • You must prevent commingling with non-organic products and contact with prohibited substances.
  • You may sell certified organic products with the USDA organic seal, as long as you do not process or repackage them.
  • You may process certified organic products on-site, provided you DO NOT use the USDA organic seal or refer to the processed products as “certified” organic. You may however label the products as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients).”
  • In all cases, you must meet the USDA organic product composition and labeling requirements (see Section 2).
  • If you process any organic product, in any department of the retail establishment, then you are also subject to maintaining three years of records and be able to complete a mass balance verifying the amount of organic product received coincides with the amount sold.  

The organic standards state the requirements all retail operations must follow, but they are not prescriptive, and therefore do not provide any further detail, explanation or guidance on how to meet each requirement. The National Organic Program recognizes that each retail operation is unique and must develop its own plan and practice to meet the outcome-based goals of the organic program. This guide will not only help you protect organic integrity and maintain consumer confidence, but fulfill those requirements using a “best practices” approach.

Finally, the organic regulations inevitably evolve over time. Most recently, that has happened with the SOE rule to further require certification and clarity on activities that require certification and oversight. We will continue to announce any updates needed to what we as retailers are expected and required to do. 

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