The National Organic Program, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, revoked the accreditation of an organic certifier in late July, citing "seven serious violations of the NOP regulations." The certifier, American Food Safety Institute International, is based in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and had about 30 clients, the USDA said.
"This is the first" certifier ever to have accreditation revoked, said Joan Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the NOP. As of July 26, 55 domestic certifying agents and 40 foreign agents were accredited, she said.
Peggy Miars, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers, said she's not surprised by the news, given the number of new certifiers who came on board after the creation of the NOP. While the revocation is unfortunate, Miars said, it reflects well on the NOP. "It shows that the program's working and that there is oversight to organic certification and accreditation through the NOP. I think it also shows the extreme amount of work that's involved with organic certification. We see it here, that our staff is so busy—that's because we are paying attention to the details. It takes a bit longer than we would like it to but we want to make sure it's done well. I'm seeing it at the national level with [the] NOP. Their resources are stretched but they're doing the best job they can. … There's room for improvement but it shows the system works."
Miars added that CCOF and others in the industry appreciate the oversight. "It's directly a reflection of the fact that those of us in the movement and the industry want consumers to have confidence in what they're buying when it's labeled organic."
AFSII is now prohibited from certifying crops, livestock, organic producers or handlers for at least three years.
Organic producers and handlers that were certified by AFSII must seek another certifying agent as soon as possible. NOP will work with producers to find a new certifier if need be.
In addition, AFSII's clients may no longer use the AFSII seal on their labels or show AFSII as the certifier on the label of organic products. The NOP gave producers and handlers 30 days to change labels and promotional materials to reflect their new certifying agency.
AFSII clients who think they may have been certified in violation of the NOP regulations should contact NOP Associate Deputy Administrator Mark Bradley at 202.720.3252.
For the seven violations that led to de-accreditation, go to www.naturalfoodsmerchandiser.com/asp/enews0802.asp.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 9/p. 14