The organic food industry should be on alert for five fraudulent organic certificates circulating in the market, according to the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). The certificates falsely represent a slew of products from producers in various countries, including blueberries, cranberries and other berries from Russia; green coffee, green tea and hot chocolate from China; bell peppers and tomatoes from the Dominican Republic; several products including honey, teas, seeds and spices from Kuwait; and various other vegetables from another Chinese company.
This is not the first time that the NOP has reported fraudulent organic certificates. Two were made known earlier this year, one from China and another from South Africa. The current series of certificates were mostly brought to NOP’s attention by the accredited certifying agents whose names and logos are being falsely utilized, along with tips from other organizations. These accredited agents include Ceres, based in Germany; Ecocert, of France; BCS, of Germany; Organic Food Federation of the UK; and Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.
The penalty for marketing, labeling or selling the non-organic agricultural products associated with these certificates can be up to $11,000 per violation. Miles McEvoy, director of the NOP, told WholeFoods, “To our knowledge, products have not been sold using the fraudulent certificates at this point. However, if retailers come across any products they believe to be violating USDA certification requirements, they should contact the National Organic Program’s Compliance and Enforcement Division (www.ams.usda.gov/nopcomplianceandenforcement). The organic community’s vigilance is a vital force in securing organic integrity, so we appreciate the cooperation of everyone who helps us in this effort.”
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2012