Nov 11, 2020
USDA’s organic fraud-fighting courses rated ‘5-star’ by OTA
Organic businesses wanting to prevent and fight fraud in their operations now have a full arsenal of firepower at their disposal: the Organic Trade Association’s groundbreaking Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program and, now, with the help of the trade association, a complete fraud-fighting training package from the USDA.
The Organic Trade Association recently commended USDA for the launch of its newest online organic fraud-fighting course, and said that USDA’s training courses are a solid step forward in efforts to fight fraud in the organic supply chain and a big boost for the association’s fraud prevention program.
“USDA has put together a five-star training package for the organic sector which dovetails perfectly with our own fraud prevention program. We are thrilled with the outcome of our collaboration with them,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Organic businesses that enroll in our Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions and also take advantage of USDA’s excellent courses will be well situated to prevent organic fraud in their operations.”
USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) recently announced the availability of its “Preventing the Organic Fraud Opportunity” course. The launch of this latest course follows the unveiling earlier this year of USDA’s online course “Organic Fraud and the Criminal Mind.” Both courses are offered free through USDA’s Organic Integrity Learning Center, and are designed for organic inspectors and certifiers to complement the Organic Trade Association’s fraud-fighting program and to educate them in their evaluation of an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan.
The USDA courses were made possible by a cooperative agreement between the Organic Trade Association and USDA, with the trade association working with Dr. John Spink, Director of the Food Fraud Initiative and leading expert in food fraud prevention, to develop the courses. The Food Fraud Initiative is a research, education, and outreach organization that focuses on types of food fraud that can weaken and threaten our public health and economy.
“The fraud prevention courses are a tremendous addition to the Learning Center, and we are grateful for the collaboration with the Organic Trade Association and University of Michigan,” said Jennifer Tucker, Deputy Administrator for the National Organic Program. “Reducing fraud is an important part of building industry and consumer confidence in USDA organic products. When everyone works together to prevent fraud, we strengthen the organic system.”
A program designed specifically to meet organic’s unique needs
The Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions is designed specifically to meet the unique needs of the organic supply chain, and is based on buyer responsibility and supplier verification. Companies in the program rerceive the comprehensive Organic Fraud Prevention Guide, which lays out a risk-based approach and specific recommendations for developing and implementing a written Organic Fraud Prevention Plan.
A key component of the trade association’s program is an online training course providing detailed background and instruction on how to carry out an organic fraud vulnerability assessment, and how to implement an effective organic fraud prevention plan. The course, “Developing and Implementing an Organic Fraud Prevention Plan,” was developed in partnership with Michigan State University. It is a pre-requisite for companies enrolled in the program, and is offered through the Food Fraud Prevention Academy and its Massive Open Online Courses for Food Fraud (MOOC).
USDA’s anti-fraud courses are based on content in the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Guide and the food fraud prevention model developed by the Food Fraud Initiative and adopted by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
Recognition and praise for Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions
The Organic Trade Association’s fraud prevention program has received high praise – not only from participating stakeholders but from the federal government. In USDA’s significant Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Proposed Rule published this past August, the department called out the trade association’s program. USDA cited “private initiatives in the organic sector to develop best practices for organic operations to detect and prevent organic fraud” and said “a good example [of those initiatives] is the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions project.”
Businesses enrolled in the program also have strongly commended it. Pipeline Foods, the first certified organic business to complete enrollment in the program, said that the education and training resources provided by the Organic Trade Association’s program were invaluable, and helped Pipeline “identify room for improvement” in the company’s existing program.
“The Organic Trade Association’s program has helped us get at fraud prevention systematically with our supply chain partners and that’s where the power is — when we get the rest of the supply chain partners to recognize the size of the hazards and take it more seriously,” said Monte Ackerman, Pipeline’s Vice President – Operations Risk Management and coordinator of Pipeline’s internal fraud prevention program.
Enrollment in the program is open to any U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic business, any Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified business, or any organic business listed with a USDA Material Review Organization or MRO.
Learn more about the USDA Organic Integrity Learning Center on the USDA website.