The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Rule is regulation put forth by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). The published rule is the most significant change to the national organic regulations since the creation of the NOP. The rule is intended to safeguard confidence in organic products and minimize fraud throughout the organic supply chain. All operations – including both currently certified and newly impacted uncertified handlers of organic products – must meet all of the requirements in the rule by March 19, 2024.
Learn more with the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Video Series.
Certified organic retailers and restaurants or retailers/restaurants that also operate as private label brand owners or operate commissary kitchens should also review our SOE information for handlers for full details. Read on for impacts on retailers and restaurants.
This summary highlights the key impacts on retailers and restaurants but is not meant to be comprehensive. Please review USDA NOP resources for full details.
Retail establishments are defined as restaurants, delicatessens, bakeries, grocery stores, or any retail business with a restaurant, delicatessen, bakery, salad bar, bulk food self-service station, or other eat-in, carry-out, mail to order, or delivery service of raw or processed agricultural products. Businesses that sell to other businesses are wholesale and do not qualify as retail establishments.
Some retail operations that sell directly to consumers are required to be certified:
- Retail operations that process organic product at a separate location from the point of sale, such as a commissary kitchen, must get the off-site location certified under the USDA NOP handler scope. If products are processed and sold at the same physical location (including repacking or preparing ready-to-eat meals), only certified organic retail establishments may use the USDA organic seal on products they process.
- Retail establishments may use virtual transactions for sales, but they must also have a physical location for consumers to purchase products to be considered a retail establishment. Retail operations that process organic product and have only virtual sales (no physical location) must get certified under the USDA NOP handler scope. Retail operations that do not process but have only virtual sales may be required to be certified, unless exempt under other sections of NOP 205.101.
Retail establishments that do not process organic product and/or retail locations that process organic product at the location of final sale are not required to be certified:
- Businesses which sell to other businesses are not considered retail establishments.
- A retail establishment may have virtual sales, but they must also have a physical location for consumers to purchase goods.
Uncertified Storage Locations, Private Label Brand Owners, and Others
SOE requires many operations that were previously exempt from certification to now get certified. This includes:
- Storage facilities that store organic products that are not in sealed, tamper-evident packages or containers;
- Private label brand owners that buy/sell organic products that are not in sealed, tamper-evident retail packaging or containers;
- Private label brand owners that buy ingredients in nonretail packaging to send to co-packers are required to get certified for the purchase of ingredients;
- And others. Review our SOE information for handlers for full details. Send this flyer to uncertified operations you work with.
Please review the updated regulations and monitor communications from CCOF for important notifications and requests for information. We are here to support you in taking the steps needed to be in compliance with all the requirements of SOE by March 19, 2024. Carefully review all notifications from CCOF, respond promptly, and contact us with any questions.
Any uncertified operations you work with that require certification by March 19, 2024 can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see if they qualify for our 2023 discount. Getting certified early will ensure a seamless transition and our offer is most advantageous to those submitting early in 2023. The certification process may take up to 12 weeks and thousands of operations will need certification. Don’t wait, apply today!
Organic Trade Association (OTA) has updated their Good Organic Retail Practices Guide to include SOE impacts for retailers.
Be sure to check out our additional SOE resources.