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Trade Association Members Fight Fraud to Protect Organic

What can you do to protect your business from organic fraud?

The success of the organic sector relies entirely on consumer trust in the USDA organic seal. Supply chains compromised due to fraud can erode consumer trust in the integrity of the organic brand and hurt organic farmers everywhere. It is critical that every organic business has a system in place that will prevent fraud and support the promise of providing organic products that people can trust.

If your business buys or sells organic products, now more than ever, you are at risk. Global supply chains are being disrupted, creating opportunities for fraud. The private sector is working together with USDA to secure the organic sector from criminal activity. Every stakeholder in the industry is responsible for maintaining organic integrity throughout their own business practices to maintain consumer trust in their brand and products. To further that expectation, the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule mandates that all USDA certified operations have an organic fraud prevention plan added to their organic system plan.

Organic Trade Association has invested significant time and resources in developing a program that will help certified operations become compliant with the SOE rule. Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions provides businesses engaged in organic trade with a risk-based process for assessing vulnerabilities and putting mitigation measures in place to prevent organic fraud.

Online Training and Program Guide

A key component of the program is an online training course and supplemental program guide, which provides the framework for assessing vulnerabilities and implementing an organic fraud prevention plan. The course, “Developing an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan,” was created in partnership with the Michigan State University Food Fraud Initiative, and is offered through the Food Fraud Prevention Academy along with many other educational resources.

The USDA’s Organic Integrity Learning Center offers additional courses such as “Preventing the Organic Fraud Opportunity” and “Organic Fraud and the Criminal Mind.” These trainings are designed for organic inspectors and certifiers to complement Organic Trade Association’s program, and to assist them in their evaluation of an organic fraud prevention plan.

Recognizing Leaders in Organic Integrity and Fraud Prevention

Forty-four organic operations are currently enrolled in the program, demonstrating their dedication to maintaining organic integrity by adding organic fraud prevention plans to their organic system plans. These early adopters stand out as leaders in organic integrity and transparency, and they are being recognized in the marketplace for their efforts.

Sunrise Foods, a global trader of premium specialty agri-food ingredients, was the first business to complete the enrollment process, and they have re-enrolled in the program to continue to monitor vulnerabilities in their supply chain. The Sunrise team chose to take advantage of the consultative services offered by one of the programs designated Trusted Advisors, Miles McEvoy, former Deputy Secretary at the USDA National Organic Program. Trusted Advisors are industry professionals who are qualified to advise and assist companies enrolled in Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions; they are experts in Vulnerability Assessment Critical Control Points (VACCP) and can go in-depth with enrolled participants to develop an organic fraud prevention plan.

Tobi Strohan, Vice President of Compliance for Sunrise Foods, valued Miles’ support throughout the enrollment process, “Sunrise Foods International is proud to be among the first to complete enrolment in the OTA’s Fraud Prevention Solutions Program. The training, manual, and templates provided a straightforward, comprehensive guide for our new plan, which underlines our commitment to upholding organic integrity across the supply chain. Our program was developed in collaboration with Miles McEvoy, with the support of the OTA team along the way. We recommend the OTA program as an excellent fraud prevention framework and are excited to see more participants coming on board.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 Organic Report, you can view the full magazine here.