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What Does the Strengthening Organic Rule Mean for the US Food Industry?

Now that the largest-ever reform of the USDA organic program is published and the timeline set, what does this mean for US organic operators? Read Complete Article


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The USDA has announced one of the largest-ever reforms to the USDA organic program, which will come into effect on March 20, 2023. The reforms aim to protect the integrity of the organic food industry and increase consumer and producer confidence in organic products. The USDA Food Systems Transformation initiative sees the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule as a significant update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990. The reforms provide increased oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce consumer trust in organic products.

The changes will affect various stakeholders in the organic supply chain, including manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and importers of organic products in the United States. These stakeholders have one year to comply with the new rules or face penalties. The reforms eliminate previous exemptions for operators such as brokers, importers, and traders, requiring them to obtain certification. Additionally, all organic products entering the US will require National Organic Program Import Certificates from certified importers. Non-retail containers will need to display organic status and certifier details, and every certified operator will be required to have a documented fraud prevention plan as part of their organic system plan.

To prepare for these changes, businesses that could be affected should begin the compliance process as soon as possible. The expansion in scope may lead to over 1,000 additional domestic businesses requiring certification for the first time, placing added pressure on certification bodies. Quality Assurance International (QAI), a leading provider of organic certification, is already working with clients to ensure compliance by the March 19, 2024 deadline. QAI has helped numerous organizations with organic certification and offers a free interactive online course to provide more information about the certification process. Their dedicated account managers and regulatory experts are available to assist businesses throughout the certification process.

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