American consumers are being pelted with products claiming to be “organic,” “natural” or “green.” From toothpaste to window cleaner, virtually every product line is jumping on the bandwagon. Reasonable people know that “natural” does not necessarily mean “safe” – heroin is a perfect example. However, a large percentage of American’s FDA-regulated products are starting to make “organic” claims, in an effort to make the American consumer feel more warm and fuzzy about their purchases. According to well known market research firm, Mintel, the organic sector of the U.S. market will steadily increase 19 percent in the next four years. Unfortunately for the majority of these certifying agents and the manufacturers they examine, they will soon find themselves on the radar of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA is responsible for policing the National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards for organic agricultural products. The NOP also accredits the aforementioned certifying agents who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that they meet USDA standards. There are strict parameters for when a product makes organic type claims and bears the organic seal. In order to strengthen public confidence in the program and to police the deluge of “organic” product claims, the USDA has agreed to a third party audit of its 100 private certifiers. The audits are scheduled to begin on Oct. 1, 2009.