“Organic requires that you have records that disclose all your activities and transactions. That’s basically it. Any savvy business would want to do that anyways … so really, what organic requires isn’t anything over the top. It’s actually just best practice.”
—Mike Dill, Food Safety and Compliance Manager, Organically Grown Company
Part 1: Introduction
- Organic is the most transparent, the most consumer-driven and the most heavily regulated food system in the world.
- Organic is unique among the ecolabels out there: It requires annual on-site inspection and third-party certification with government oversight (USDA).
- Having verification behind the label builds trust for customers paying that organic premium.
Part 2: The NOP, the NOSB, the National List
- Any agricultural product with the term “organic” on the front panel must be certified under the National Organic Program (NOP)—it’s the law. Violators face steep fines and possible jail time.
- The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is comprised of 15 volunteers from the organic community, and oversees the National List of allowable materials and ingredients.
- The list of approved substances for organic is very small (25) compared to that of conventional operators (900-plus).
- Certified organic means 95 percent or more of a product’s content must be organic, except when there’s no suitable organic alternative that exists.
- There’s a no-growth trend for the National List: only six synthetics have been added since 2008, while 72 materials have been removed, denied or further restricted.
Part 3: Organic vs. conventional, 606 List opportunity, inspections
- Synthetic hormones and antibiotics are prohibited for organic certification. Be wary: The conventional producer that’s marketing the absence of these offers an unverified claim.
- The organic standard protects animals, and also improves the health of the system and the end product.
- The 606 List offers an opportunity for the supply side; it’s a rapidly growing market niche.
- Inspections occur from farm to shelf equating to complete traceability.
- The bright side of inspections: They validate and verify the hard work you put into creating and maintaining a written plan for your organic standards.
Part 4: Deciphering labels, packaging requirements, certification challenges and costs
- Currently the National Organic Program (NOP) is geared toward food production only. Certifier statements on labels can help to verify organic product.
- “Made with organic” products contain 70 percent certified organic ingredients and up to 30 percent non-organic ingredients.
- Organic is always non-GMO but non-GMO is not always organic, according to organic trade groups.
- Helpful slides to decipher packaging label requirements for various organic claims.
- Organic livestock certification takes roughly three years and costs $800-900; it’s an easier process and costs less for crop growers, handlers and processors.
Part 5: Regulatory issues, having a say
- The NOP rule was passed into law in 1990, and it would take an act of Congress to change it.
- Organics is a very active community, and it would be difficult for any one entity to take over even as more players enter the game.
- Stay informed and pay attention to issues that affect your business or supply chain.
- Speak up! Regulators especially want to hear from growers and farmers.
Part 6: Q&A
- Supply chain traceability and block chain technology: The OTA is all over this one.
- How organic standards apply to international products/sourcing: It’s a worldwide system.
- Inspection report fallout and next steps: The focus is on continuous improvement.
- Fortified foods and amino acid fortification issues.
- The fourth label category that doesn’t require certification.
This session—Organic 101—was recorded at Natural Products Expo West 2018. Click "download" below to access the presentation slides.