Claiming “Organic” is Now a Little Bit Harder – and That’s a Good Thing

It’s getting a little bit tougher for food growers, processors, and distributors to label their products as “organic” – now that the USDA’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule (SOE) is in effect.

The program’s main goal is to prevent the fraudulent labeling of food products as “organic,” and the need for it has arisen out of growing public skepticism about organic food claims.

“We at Prime Fresh Handling have strongly supported this rule change since it was adopted and passed into law earlier this year,” says Cristina Moscoso, Prime Fresh Handling’s West Coast General Manager at LAX. “We understand that protecting and growing the organic sector – and protecting and buttressing the trusted USDA organic seal – is of utmost importance for all operators and service providers in this important food sector.”

According to USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffit, “The Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule is the biggest update to organic regulations since the original Act in 1990, and it provides a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce the trust of consumers, farmers, and those transitioning to organic production. The success is another demonstration that the USDA fully stands behind the organic brand.”


What Does the Rule Do?

SOE protects organic integrity and improves farmer and consumer confidence in the USDA seal by supporting strong organic control systems, improving farm-to-market traceability, increasing import oversight authority, and providing strict enforcement of organic regulations.

Key updates include:

  • Requiring certification of more of the businesses, like brokers and traders, at critical links in organic supply chains
  • Requiring NOP (National Organic Program) Import Certificates for all organic imports
  • Requiring organic identification on non-retail containers
  • Increasing authority for more rigorous on-site inspections of certified operations
  • Requiring uniform qualification and training standards for organic inspectors and certifying agent personnel
  • Standardizing certificates of organic operation
  • Additional and more frequent reporting of data on certified operations
  • Creating authority for more robust recordkeeping, traceability practices, and fraud prevention procedures

In a nutshell, SOE complements and supports the many actions that the USDA takes to protect the organic label, including the registration of the USDA organic seal trademark with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). The registered trademark provides authority to deter uncertified entities from falsely using the deal, which together with this new rule provides additional layers of protection to the USDA organic seal.

Who Is Affected?

The rule may affect USDA-accredited certifying agents, organic inspectors, and certified organic operations, as well as those considering organic certification. It may also affect businesses that trade organic products and retailers selling organic products. Organic operations, certifying agents, and other organic stakeholders affected by the rule will have one year from the effective date, March 20, 2023, to comply with the changes.

A Trusted Service Provider

“PFH is proud of the multiple certifications we have achieved over the years that enable us to be a trusted provider of shipping and handling services on behalf of our many clients serving this growing market,” adds Moscoso. Certifications held by PFH – with an eye toward health, safety, and the utmost in freshness – include the following:

  • California Certified Organic Farmers Certification: PFH-LAX is approved to handle organic produce by the California Certified Organic Farmers. Accredited by the USDA this certification signifies that we comply with Federal regulations on the handling of agricultural commodities labeled and sold as “organic.”
  • PrimusGFS Certification: PFH meets the highest standards in food safety, and Primus Global Food Safety Certification [see totally separate story way below on his Primus cert] proves it – as qualified to operate within the fresh food supply chain, from pre- and to post-farm gate production. We’re top ranked in the global perishables industry.
  • Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points Certification: HACCP certifies PFH to handle fresh seafood, specifically. It ensures we take a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in that can cause the finished product to be unsafe for consumption.
  • IATA Temperature Controlled Cargo Operations Certification: IATA’s annual certification in Temperature Controlled Cargo Operations ensures that members of our our Operations team complies with all complex shipping regulations and standards as they relate to the proper transport of highly temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals and biologics.


Commitment to Organics Sector

These multiple food safety certifications apply specifically to qualified companies that operate within the fresh food supply chain from pre- to post-farm gate production, which is exactly what PFH does.

According to Moscoso, retailers and other buyers around the world have come to trust PFH as an objectively validated company that seeks out and achieves the highest standards in food safety.

“Such high-ranking and respected accreditations and certifications also allow us to gain access to all corners of the global market,” she adds.

So, whatever customers need to handle and ship, from soup to nuts – to fresh cut flowers, Moscoso emphasizes that “it’s a prudent to make PFH the first stop when looking for a highly reliable and seasoned firm to manage all your international air cargo logistics needs. We’re ready to assist and answer all your questions.”

Global Services 

Whether it’s a box, a pallet, or a companywide logistics operation, PFH is skilled in achieving safe on-time delivery of temperature-sensitive material and products between any point of origin and destination around the globe.

In fact, PFH is also known as a global leader in perishables transportation of fresh produce, fish, cut flowers, and plants. With state-of-the-art facilities in Europe, South American, and across North America, PFH leverages industry-leading technologies such as vacuum cooling, sorting, re-packing, bar coding, labeling, and temperature monitoring to guarantee a consistent, safe, and fresh delivery.

Contact Prime Fresh Handling

Cristina Moscoso, PFH-West Coast: 323-328-8650 or via email at Also visit

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