Working toward better tools for fraud prevention

What is the Organic Observatory?

The Organic Observatory is a programme that the Alliance for Organic Integrity has set up with the aim of deterring fraudulently labelled products entering the organic supply chain by enabling a systematic approach to industry due-diligence.  This will be undertaken by collecting and assessing reports of incidents where possibly fraudulent products are discovered by participating organic businesses and reporting these in the first case to the organic industry participants that may otherwise purchase those products.  Wider reporting would also take place either in urgent cases (for example where there is a health risk) and by publication as part of the Alliance’s educational programme.

Why is it needed?

Although there are programmes to horizon scan for future problems and report on publicly confirmed fraud cases, the Organic Observatory will be receiving information on suspicious incidents direct from industry and taking a detailed look at reported incidents in order to provide information that can be acted on as rapidly as possible by organic operators.  One of the main ways in which industry can fight fraudulent products is by communicating with other organic operators to provide a warning. 

How will the Organic Observatory help organic operators?

The Organic Observatory is intended to decrease the incidence of purchases of product found to be fraudulently labelled as organic. 

For purchasers, apart from the costs of repurchasing correct product and disposing of the non-organic product of dubious provenance there are all the additional financial burdens entailed by purchasing fraudulently labelled goods.

For growers and sellers the benefits of protecting the organic system are that they will be less likely to be undercut by fraudulent products that do not have to meet the strict standards and control system of genuine products.

The Observatory will reduce the pressure on organic businesses in dealing with communicating suspicious incidents to other organic businesses so will assist in their operating due diligence within the industry.

 It will  also provide more of an industry wide view, where a number of small incidents that could go unreported would flag up an alert from the Observatory.

A beneficial “side effect” of the work to prevent fraud will be that the system should also assist with non-fraud issues.  On the one hand a product may have become contaminated with a non-allowed substance without fraud being an issue, on the other hand a product that there is industry suspicion of could be found not to be fraudulent if a valid explanation is discovered for the issue of concern.

What about the data?

Information sent by participants will be stored on a secure database and kept confidential, this is an industry led initiative and it is not the intention of the Alliance usually to report incidents to the authorities direct.  Only a limited number of Alliance personnel have access to the main database itself.  Expert teams working for the Alliance will access specific issues highlighted by information provided from the database but will not have access to all information held by the Observatory.

How does an organic business take part in the Observatory?

Participants will need to sign up to take part in the Organic Observatory – a link to the agreement will be published on this page in the near future.

Read more about the Alliance Observatory project here.

If you would like to talk to us about the observatory please email us at obs@aoi.bio