Organic production is the only system that uses third-party inspection and certification to verify that no toxic and persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers have been used.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program conducts on-site audits of 100% of accredited certifiers. It is the only federal agency regulating food that conducts 100% inspections.
Every USDA-accredited certification agency inspects each certified operation annually. The inspection is on-site and reviews every component of the operation:
- The farm inspector inspects fields, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems (for irrigation and post-harvest handling), storage areas, inputs, record-keeping, harvest and sales information, contamination and commingling risks and prevention and equipment.
- The livestock inspector inspects feed production and purchase records, feed rations, animal living conditions, production and sales information, preventive health care management practices, health records and overall animal health condition, and contamination and commingling risks and prevention measures.
- The handler or processing inspector inspects the facility and evaluates the receiving, processing, and storage areas.
The inspector assesses procedures to prevent contamination from prohibited substances and to prevent commingling with non-organic ingredients.
Organic certifiers do, in fact, currently conduct unannounced inspections on a portion of all their clients each year. ISO 65 accredited certifiers are required to conduct unannounced inspections.Certifiers currently conduct testing for pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics and other prohibited substances when contamination is suspected or when a complaint is received.
New rule possible
While the standards largely focus on the verification of procedures (process-based), testing is a tool used regularly to validate contamination prevention measures and/or to address complaints and reported contamination.
NOP has recently released a proposed rule that will require certifiers to annually conduct residue testing on 5% of their certified operations.
The required testing will be in addition to testing already conducted when contamination is suspected or complaints are received.
The final rule will clarify the required testing provision in the Organic Foods Production Act. The final rule is expected late this year.