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Investigations Underway for NOP Violations

January 2006

As of January 2006, there are six producers currently under investigation for violations of national organic standards. One company has been decertified and some businesses been have been formally cautioned about possible violations, according to government records.

None of these companies are identified by the Agricultural Marketing Service Compliance Office records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Organic Business News.
The records cover most of the complaints made to the USDA in 2005. So far, the USDA has not brought formal charges against anyone and no names are disclosed.

In the case of the decertification, the records showed that OCPP/Pro Cert took the action after it found improprieties in a livestock operation of record keeping, living conditions, feed, herd health, and commingling with conventional livestock.

In a plant certified by Indiana Certified Organic, organic meat was being processed in a non-certified slaughterhouse. The operator then obtained certification for the plant, which was also approved as a USDA FSIS site.

In another case, the NOP directed Quality Certification Services in Gainesville, FL to tell its client to remove the USDA organic seal from shrimp and fish products. QCS had approved the USDA seal even though there are no established standards for those products.

In California, one family created a phony certification document from California Certified Organic Farmers after CCOF’s certification agency revoked certification in 2004. Shipments had been made to two brokers, but the products were recovered and dumped. The NOP closed the case since none of the falsely labeled products reached the marketplace.

In another case, a company was labeling a burrito product that did not identify a certifier. It was claiming “made with organic” labeling without being certified. The firm agreed to change the label and no action was taken.

A producer certified by NOFA-NY was relabeling its chicken feed as organic but did not identify a certifying agent or batch number. In addition, the company did not update its organic systems plan to include retail sales packaging. NOFA-NY took action to correct the labeling and the organic systems plan.

In another case, a distributor was labeling non-organic lettuce as organic. It was learned that the supplier to the distributor substituted conventional for organic lettuce. The AMS Compliance Office said the case was closed after “satisfactory corrective actions” were taken. The supplier was instructed not to substitute conventional for organic.

Another business in Oklahoma was labeling and selling spices as certified organic but agreed to remove organic from the label once they were confronted about the violation.
A small grain mill agreed to make label and brochure changes after buying organic grains and labeling processed products without being certified organic.

Another business agreed to take off the USDA organic seal from its product label and advertising after it was discovered that it was selling Aloe Vera juice product that was not properly certified to NOP standards.