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Processor/Handler Operations – USDA Organic Regulation Changes to Nonretail Labeling, Audit Trail, and Fraud Prevention

by Rebecca Silver |

We recently contacted all CCOF-certified operations to provide additional information related to Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rulemaking by the USDA National Organic Program. The information below is a recap of the recent communication from CCOF. We are informing you of these changes to ensure you are aware and can act by March 19, 2024, if needed. 

  1. Action—Review the Organic Fraud Prevention Plan worksheet and your Organic System Plan (OSP). If you need to change your OSP, send your updates to CCOF before March 19, 2024, for review. § 205.201
    • a.    New requirement—You must implement monitoring practices and procedures to verify suppliers in your supply chain and the organic status of agricultural products received to detect and prevent organic fraud. The scale and scope of your fraud prevention plan should reflect the complexity of your supply chain. Please be prepared to demonstrate the effectiveness of your Organic Fraud Prevention Plan to your inspector.
    • b.    Background—You are responsible for using appropriate and effective means to prevent organic fraud in your supply chain. You must also implement monitoring practices and procedures to verify that your plan is effectively implemented.
  2. Action—Review your audit trail documentation. These elements should already be part of your audit trail, but please review your documentation to ensure you comply.
    • a.    New requirement—All audit trail records and documents must identify products and ingredients as “100% Organic,” “Organic,” or “Made with Organic … ” or use an easily understood abbreviation or acronym, such as “100% OG,” “Org,” or “MWO.” § 205.103
    • b.    New requirement—Audit trail documentation must be traceable back to the last certified operation and must identify (link to) the last certified operation, even if product passes through uncertified handlers such as transporters or storage facilities. Audit trail documentation must include documents generated by the last certified operation proving purchase, delivery, and/or transfer. § 205.103, 205.307
    • c.    Background—Audit trail documents trace an organic ingredient or product from receipt through production or handling to final sale or distribution.
  3. Action—If you have nonretail containers or unpackaged products, review your nonretail labeling. Send any new or updated labels to CCOF before March 19, 2024, for pre-approval prior to printing. § 205.307
    • a.    New requirement—Nonretail containers must identify product as organic (unless the container holds product packaged for retail sale with organic identification visible through the nonretail container). 
    • b.    New requirement—Nonretail containers must display product lot number, shipping identification, or other unique information that links the container to audit trail documentation.
    • c.    Background— 
      • i.    A nonretail container is any container used to ship or store organic products that is not used in the retail display or sale of the product. Common examples of nonretail containers include produce boxes sent to distributors or retailers, bins/totes sent to packers or processors, master cases of wholesale packaged products, railcars/trailers/tanks/vessels used to transport bulk unpackaged products, and grain elevators/silos for unpackaged product storage. 
      • ii.    Temporary signage and abbreviations such as “O,” “ORG,” etc., may be used to meet these requirements. This change applies to nonretail containers that move through the supply chain. 
      • iii.    Vehicles or vessels that transport other nonretail containers do not need to also be labeled with the above information; the nonretail containers must bear this information (e.g., labeled cases within a trailer, but the trailer does not need to be labeled).

These reminders will appear in your next Compliance Report and will be verified at your next inspection.
For more information, please see the USDA National Organic Program’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement website as well as CCOF’s SOE webpage. We are continually developing new resources to support you. We appreciate your participation in the CCOF Organic Certification Program and your dedication to organic agriculture.

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