Sunday, March 21, 2010

Report Says Organic Labels Misused

Straight to the Source

> This is unfortunate, though it doesn't surprise me. I still continue to buy organic, but I think this is yet another very good reason for buying local, organic food where you know the source (ie farmer). Yah for Spring + local markets!

WASHINGTON — The Department of Agriculture has failed to enforce penalties against some who falsely marketed foods as organic, according to an internal department investigation.

A report by the agency’s inspector general said the agency needs to increase enforcement of those who sell products under the “USDA Organic’’ label but do not meet government standards to do so. The report said the department has made improvements in maintaining the integrity of the organic program in recent years but needs to better handle complaints about potential violators.

Oversight of the organic program has become more important and more scrutinized as the industry has flourished, with sales increasing 14 to 21 percent annually in the last decade to $24.6 billion in 2008. As more companies have vied to be part of the business, critics have charged that the government has not been restrictive enough in what it allows to be labeled as organic.

The internal report said the department has failed to monitor some companies it had already identified as improperly marketing their products as organic. In one case, the department never issued enforcement action against an operation that had marketed non-organic mint under the department’s label for two years.

Enforcement action can simply be an agreement to correct the problem or can be more severe, including revocation of an operation’s organic certification or cash penalties.

The report also said that the department is not processing complaints fast enough.

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