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Service Providers’ Role in Organic Integrity

by Rachel Witte |

Service providers such as nut hullers and coolers are a critical part of the organic supply chain, ensuring that organic producers have certified locations to handle their crops or products. CCOF has a flexible approach to certification of certain types of service providers. This approach relies on the service provider’s system for verifying certification status of incoming crops or products.

Recently, we have seen instances of service providers performing insufficient due diligence to verify the organic status of incoming crops. While a customer may have brought in organic product in the past, many operations are mixed or may have transitional parcels, meaning that not all product from the same customer is certified organic. Additionally, customers may have had their certification suspended or revoked since they last requested services. Although it may appear that treating all crops as organic is harmless, it creates the potential for fraud in the supply chain when records generated by the service provider indicate that a crop was handled organically if the original crop is not certified organic.

Service providers are responsible for verifying the organic status of each incoming shipment of crops or products prior to processing or handling as organic by doing the following:

  • Documents received with shipments must list organic status and parcel or lot number for product received.
  • Documents must be a representation from the provider or farm and must not be created by the service provider. The supplier of the product must make the organic claim independently to you.
  • Service providers must verify that the parcel or product you received is on the producer’s current organic certificate.

CCOF will verify at inspection that service providers compare the parcel or lot number received to the producer’s current organic certificate. If a service provider does not verify organic status, you may be held responsible for processing non-organic product as organic and receive a noncompliance. Additionally, product mixed with non-organic product may lose organic status and there may be potential for civil penalties.