The U.S. Department of Agriculture began a strengthened residue testing program in January to help increase consumer confidence in the organic industry.

“USDA is committed to meeting consumers’ expectations that organic products maintain their organic integrity from farm to market,” said Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program.

“The residue testing program provides additional verification that certified organic farmers are meeting established requirements by not using prohibited substances,” he said.

As part of the program, USDA organic certifying agents will test products from 5% of the organic farms they certify each year.

The tests have always been a part of the process. The program establishes a minimum of tests that must be done, McEvoy said in a USDA blog post.

Agents will test farms when there is concern that prohibited substances may be present. Testing also will be done at random.

The object is to discourage mislabeling and increase USDA oversight of the organic products around the world, according to McEvoy.

These tests aim to increase confidence in U.S organic products for international trade partners, including ongoing partnerships with the European Union and Canada and a new agreement with Japan.

“Periodic residue testing is an important tool to protect the integrity of USDA organic products both here in the United States and around the world,” McEvoy said.

As of Jan. 1, the USDA had certified 25,022 operations to its organic regulations. More than 1,251 operations were expected to be tested throughout the year, and numbers will be verified during the agents’ audits, according to Sam Jones-Ellard, public affairs specialist with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

The program will be ongoing, and agents will continue to test at least 5% of the operations certified each year.

The results from residue testing must be maintained by the certifying agent and records are available to the public upon request.