Essay on Organic: Organic Food and Certification Process

Submitted By anhanh13
Words: 2387
Pages: 10

Certification of the Organic Process
The purpose of this report is to suggest improvements to the current organic certification process and recommend solutions to the organic food industry in order to ensure that the end users are purchasing organic food products.
The current organic certification process is not an optimal process because it is ambiguous and full of gaps. The process from certifying raw goods to certifying finished goods as organic has many gray areas where unethical practices can occur. In the end, due to the inefficient certification process, there is a weak control in the quality of organic food products and so no guarantee for customers that they are consuming real organic food products.
Background Information- Definition of Organic Foods
To be considered organic, a food item needs to have the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Certified seal on the packaging (USDA, Organic Food Production Act of 1990, 2005). In order to get this seal, the food item or product needs to meet the organic standards that are regulated and set by the National Organic Program (NOP), a division within the USDA that is responsible of the organic food industry for the country. According to the NOP, only products that have 95 percent or more organic ingredients may have the organic certified seal. However, products made up of 70 percent or more organic ingredients may include the phrase “made with organic products” on the packaging but cannot have the seal. Also, anything less than 70 percent can include the organic products used on the ingredients list but is restricted from promoting the use of the organic product seal on the packaging. Lastly, there is also a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that the NOP has created. This list includes synthetic substances that are allowed and natural substances that are prohibited (USDA, Organic 201, 2012). In essence, organic operators can have an organic certified product with synthetic substances that is part of the National List.
Background Information- Certification Process of Organic Foods
To get the USDA organic seal, the product must pass an official organic certification process controlled by third party certifying agents that represent the USDA NOP. This process is described in figure 1.
There are certifying agents listed in Appendix I that are responsible in making sure a product meets the NOP standards. There are currently 90 of these third party certifying agents; 49 of them are in the US while 41 of them are in foreign countries (USDA Accredited Certifying Agents, 2012). In the end, these agencies issue organic certificates to applicants that meet the USDA organic regulations. This certification only lasts up to one year and each year and the applicants must provide the certifying agents with up to date information in order to be recertified. In 2011, there were 17,281 organic certified farms and processing facilities in the US and over 13,000 organic certified operations worldwide, a number that is growing year in and year out (USDA,2011 List of Certified Operations, 2012).
Figure 1: Organic Certification Process
Source: USDA, What is Organic Certification, 2012.
Figure 1: Organic Certification Process
Source: USDA, What is Organic Certification, 2012.
Background Information- Organic Food Industry Overview
The organic food industry has been developing steadily over the last few years. According to the Organic Trade Associations (OTA) 2011 Organic Industry Survey, organic food sales rose 7.7 percent, totaling $26.9 billion. As of 2010, the sales rate reached four percent of the total US food sales (Laux, 2012). One of the main reasons for the US organic industry growth is the consumer demand for organic products has increased in recent years. The study titled “US families organic attitudes and beliefs” conducted by OTA showed that 78 percent of US families are purchasing organic foods.