Group calls on FTC, USDA to regulate all 'organic' products

Group calls on FTC, USDA to regulate all 'organic' products
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The Organic Trade Association is calling on the feds to regulate all products claiming to be “organic.”

The push comes a day before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plan to hold a roundtable discussion on consumers' perceptions of organic claims.

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The trade group, which has been invited to speak, claims there’s a gap in the current regulations.

While the National Organic Program has regulated and enforced strict organic standards for agricultural products for the last 15 years, the Organic Trade Association said it does not have enforcement authority over nonfood or nonagricultural products like detergents and cosmetics.

“As a result, food products in stores have to be certified by USDA to carry the organic label, or risk being found guilty of fraud and slapped with civil penalties and other enforcement actions,” the trade association said in a release.

“But non-agricultural products like household cleaners or personal care items are able to use organic claims whether they are certified or not.”

The trade association has been urging the FTC to develop an enforcement policy for organic claims on nonfood products that are outside the National Organic Program's authority as the industry continues to grow exponentially.

Without one, the group fears the integrity of and trust in the organic seal will be diluted. 

“American consumers need to trust in the organic label and in organic claims, whether those labels are on organic produce and organic milk or on shampoo and sheets," Laura Batcha, the trade association's CEO and executive director, said in a statement.

"Our survey shows consumers who are buying organic feel that both organic food products and non-food products claiming to be organic should be regulated in the same manner.” 

According to the trade association's 2016 Organic Industry Survey, organic sales hit $43.3 billion in 2015, up 11 percent from the previous year. Of that $43.3 billion, $39.7 billion was organic food sales and $3.6 billion was nonfood organic products.

Thursday’s podcast will be live streamed on the FTC’s website.