The Organic Trade Association (OTA), Washington, D.C., kicked off of a groundbreaking pilot project to prevent and detect fraud in the global organic system. 

The 3-month pilot project was initiated by OTA’s Global Organic Supply Chain Integrity (GOSCI) Task Force, which was formed to develop a fraud prevention program designed specifically for the organic industry. The task force created a comprehensive "best practices" guide to facilitate the industry-wide implementation of systems and measures to preserve the integrity of organic, both inside and outside of the United States. 

"Organic now operates in a global market. Fraud is one of the biggest threats to that market, and it cannot be tolerated in the organic system," says Laura Batcha, executive director and CEO. "Everyone has a role and responsibility to detect and deter fraud. I commend the Organic Trade Association members participating in the pilot for the commitment to doing everything in their power to address the problem and taking the lead in finding constructive and workable solutions."

Participating in the pilot project are 11 members of the GOSCI Task Force, representing the entire organic supply chain, from farm to retailer and a diverse range of products, services and commodities, including fresh produce, grain, spices, dairy, eggs, meat, beverages, packaged and prepared foods, importers and consulting services. Pilot participants are:

  • Clarkson Grain Co., Inc., Cerro Gordo, Ill.
  • Egg Innovations, LLC, Warsaw, Ind.
  • Global Organics Ltd., Cambridge, Mass.
  • Grain Millers, Inc., St. Ansgar, Iowa
  • I Was Thinking (importer/handler/co-packer, grains, seeds, legumes, sweeteners)
  • MOM's Organic Market, Rockville, Md.
  • Organically Grown Co., Eugene, Ore.
  • Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative, La Farge, Wis.
  • Pipeline Foods, LLC, Minneapolis
  • J.M. Smucker Co., Orrville, Ohio
  • True Organic Products, Inc., Spreckels, Calif.

The pilot is designed to be an intensive-focused exercise in which participants will "test drive" the fraud prevention and detection strategies developed by the GOSCI Task Force. Participants will concentrate on one product or ingredient or a specific location to run through the pilot program. During the pilot, participants will seek comments from other stakeholders in their unique supply chain, then share feedback on their experiences and give recommendations on how to improve and strengthen the suggested strategies.  

Collaborating partners in the project are the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, the Accredited Certifiers Association, Mabel, Minn., and NSF International, Ann Arbor, Mich. The collaborating partners will review and provide feedback on the recommendations put forth by the task force, as well as provide support on implementation and adoption efforts, as agreed with pilot participants. 

"We've worked for a year to develop a fraud prevention program for organic, and now we need to have companies put our recommendations to the test in their everyday business activities to find the elements that have to be further developed," says Gwendolyn Wyard, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for OTA and staff coordinator for the GOSCI Task Force. "This pilot project is key to advancing the adoption of an industry-wide systemic approach to preserving organic integrity from the farm to the plate and to ensuring the honesty of global control systems." 

The fraud prevention plan provides organic businesses with a risk-based approach for developing and implementing a written strategic plan to assure the authenticity of organic products. The plan focuses on identifying and assessing specific weaknesses or vulnerabilities in their business that pose the most risk of fraud, identifying and taking measures to reduce those vulnerabilities to deter fraud, establishing a monitoring program to ensure the fraud prevention measures are in place and developing  a complaint system to be used when fraud is suspected or detected.

The recommended practices are intended to establish an industry standard for businesses to create continuously improving internal programs and processes for achieving organic integrity throughout their associated supply chains.

"The success of organic relies on consumer trust of the organic seal," says Batcha. "It is critical that every link in the organic chain has systems and measures in place to provide the organic food that people can trust. We want our fraud prevention plan to become the industry standard for achieving integrity across complex organic supply chains. But, before we get to that point, certain steps have to happen. This pilot project is a key step, followed by industry training and a roll-out with enrollment by the industry into this proactive and beneficial program."