Tag Archives organic

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the termination of a rulemaking proceeding that "proposed to establish a national research and promotion program for certified organic products under authority of the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996." The Organic Trade Association proposed the program in 2015, and USDA accepted comments on the proposal in 2017. "In response to the proposed rule, USDA received almost 15,000 comments," according to the announcement. "The comments revealed that there is a split within the industry in terms of support for the proposed program. While some comments voiced support for a collective industry program, other comments stated that industry was not aligned in backing the proposal. Opponents raised concerns about the proposed program, including how the de minimis level would eliminate a majority of organic farmers from the program; the disproportionate impact on high value commodities as assessments would be tied to…

Ruling that the plaintiff’s claims are preempted by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), a federal court in California has dismissed a putative class action alleging Danone North America's Horizon Organic milk is not organic because it contains DHA. Brown v. Danone N. Am. LLC, No. 17-7325 (N.D. Cal., entered May 1, 2018). Noting that the Ninth Circuit has not considered whether the OFPA preempts state law challenges that "call into question whether organic products were properly certified as organic,” the court sided with decisions from the Eighth and Second Circuits holding that such challenges are preempted. “The labels clearly state that the milk is 'organic' and that the milk contains DHA, and the labels bear the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification logo," the court found. "The USDA database publicly shows that Horizon Organic milk with DHA is currently certified organic by the USDA, and has been…

The National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that Perdue Farms Inc. modify or discontinue broadcast and YouTube advertisements for the company’s Harvestland Organic chicken, finding the ads could mislead consumers into believing all Perdue chicken is organically raised. NAD found that the company's “Free Range” and “All-Veggie Diet” ads featured “general brand references” to Perdue but only “momentary visual references to Harvestland Organic," potentially leading consumers to conflate the two. The ads, which asserted that Perdue's chickens are"happy," also “clearly stated the general claim, ‘Perdue, raising more organic chickens than anyone in America,’” NAD noted. The board further cited a consumer-perception survey submitted by Perdue, finding that “the survey showed that substantially more respondents took away a message about the Perdue brand, generally." "NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the broadcast and YouTube commercials or modify them – including the YouTube description copy – to make clear that the advertising pertains…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances to approve elemental sulfur for use in organic livestock production as a topical parasiticide for fleas, ticks and mites. The proposal would also reclassify potassium acid tartrate from a non-agricultural substance to an agricultural substance and require use of the ingredient's organic form when commercially available. Public comment on the proposed rule must be received by June 29, 2018.

The European Parliament has adopted rules governing the certification and labeling of organic foods, including supply chain checks and updated standards for organic foods imported from non-EU countries. The rules also cover plant seeds, allowing producers to offer locally adapted traditional varieties for sale and use. "Organic standards are already very high, but consumer confidence can best be strengthened when the rules are clear and comprehensible. The new regulation wil[l] certainly make a positive contribution here," MEP Martin Häusling said in a interview. “Moreover, many of the rules that give producers security are also beneficial to consumers. The annual process-oriented controls mean consumers can be sure companies are inspected regularly."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the renewal of 17 substances for the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which determines which synthetic substances can be used in organic farming. Included on the list is carrageenan; USDA found that “potential substitutes do not adequately replicate the functions of carrageenan across the broad scope of use.” The National Organic Standards Board previously recommended that carrageenan be removed from the National List, determining that materials such as guar gum and xanthan gum were available for use as alternative thickening and emulsifying agents.

The Second Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action that alleged Abbott Laboratories Inc. falsely represented its Similac Advance Organic Infant Formula as organic, ruling the plaintiffs’ state-law claims are barred by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Marentette v. Abbott Labs. Inc., No. 17-0062 (2d Cir., entered March 23, 2018). The plaintiffs alleged that Abbott misled consumers because the product contained ingredients not permitted by the OFPA. The appeals court asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to submit an amicus brief addressing (i) whether the certification process requires the certifying agent to review and approve the ingredients of the final product to be labeled organic and (ii) whether products made in accordance with a properly certified plan will necessarily comply with the OFPA. According to the decision, USDA stated that “certifying agents review and approve both the process and the ingredients of the final product…

The Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Food Safety, Cultivate Oregon, and the International Center for Technology Assessment have filed a complaint for declaratory and equitable relief against Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule (OLPP) violated both the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Ctr. for Envt’l Health v. Perdue, No. 18-1763 (N.D. Cal., filed March 21, 2018). The complaint alleges that USDA’s first rationale for withdrawal of the OLPP, that it lacked the authority to set standards for livestock production, is “contrary to the plain language of OFPA, which unambiguously requires USDA to promulgate additional standards for the care of livestock based on NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) recommendation." The rationale was not a permissible interpretation of the OFPA's requirements, the complaint asserts, and is arbitrary and capricious.…

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has announced the settlement of a lawsuit alleging Handsome Brook Farms mislabeled eggs as “Pasture Raised” despite being sourced from non-pasture producers or from producers not meeting standards for pasture-raised products. OCA noted that since the suit was filed, Handsome Brook's new management has developed internal audit processes and supply chain management to ensure compliance with American Humane Association standards for pasture-raised eggs. The settlement includes Handsome Brook’s agreement to participate in independent third-party auditing of its sales and purchase records for 18 months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a final rule withdrawing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule, leaving existing organic regulations in effect. The USDA announcement noted that withdrawal was opposed by “consumers, organic farmers, organic handlers, organizations representing animal welfare, environmental, or farming interests, trade associations, certifying agents and inspectors, and retailers.” In January 2018, a group that included the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Humane Society of the United States, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Whole Foods Market published a full-page ad in The Washington Post expressing their opposition to the withdrawal of the rule.

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