The National Organic Program administered by the USDA has recognized a problem of fraudulent claims regarding organic status of products entering the marketplace including the use of false NOP certificates and other misrepresentations with respect to NOP requirements. During 2010, six operations were issued with civil penalties for selling organic products without certification.
Penalties have also been levied as a result of misrepresenting agriculture products.
The NOP is now evaluating the performance of certifying agents. An analysis of 40 audit reports in 2010 denoted significant noncompliance especially with regard to reviewing organic systems plans, scheduling and conducting inspections and conflicts of interest. Based on these revelations, the NOP has justifiably developed improvements in their accreditation programs.
The major components will include in-depth training with a focus on aspects of noncompliance, web-based instructional programs and increased outreach and technical assistance for certifying agents. The NOP intends to repeat the evaluation of audit reports in September 2011 and will develop new recommendations to improve the accreditation program for 2012.
According to NOP literature, ensuring that certifying agents implement a quality audit process is critical to protecting the integrity of the image of organic products bearing the NOP Seal and to maintain consumer confidence.