Understanding noncompliances and adverse actions

#Understanding a noncompliance notice

When an inspection, review, or investigation reveals an operation is not compliant with the requested standards, we will issue a noncompliance.

When is a noncompliance issued?

Items that are correctable and submission of a written, documented corrective action from the operation can bring the issue to a resolution, we will often issue a noncompliance.

What is in a noncompliance notice?

A notice includes a description(s) of the noncompliance(s), reference and connection to the applicable regulation and/or standard, basis for the noncompliance notice (e.g., observations, evidence, etc.), and the due date for submission of a written response.

How will I know when the noncompliance is resolved and removed?

When an operation adequately demonstrates that each noncompliance was appropriately addressed, we will send the operation a written notification of resolution or need for further action. If we receive a partial or incomplete response, OTCO will immediately send correspondence with notification of outstanding items that require response and actions, as well as due dates. Only after each noncompliance has been sufficiently addressed can we proceed with the next steps of your certification.

#Resolution of a noncompliance

In the event that you receive a noncompliance, a timely and thorough response is critical for bringing your situation to a resolution. Be sure to read and understand the noncompliance issue, and what is being requested of you to address it. We will provide supporting documents, as appropriate, to show additional context for the cited issue.

What steps do I take to successfully resolve a noncompliance?

First, gather and organize all of the requested information (e.g., records, pictures, letters, etc.). Outline your response to each item, describing all the actions you’ve taken to ensure future compliance. We will look specifically at how the issue was corrected and how it will be prevented in the future. If you plan to take future actions, be sure to detail in your response the actions, implementation dates, and dates of completion.

What happens after I submit my response?

We review the response once it is submitted and may request additional information from you or supporting documents or evidence. If you have questions at any point in the process, contact the staff person in your official notice to discuss and walk through the noncompliance together.

#Understanding adverse actions

When a certified organic operation fails or inadequately responds to issues discovered during the certification process, we will need to issue an adverse action.

What are the consequences of receiving an adverse action?

An adverse action can include proposing denial of certification, suspension of certification, or revocation of certification. Operations that receive an adverse action are eligible to request mediation or appeal the decision.

How do I ensure I don’t receive an adverse action?

It is in every operation’s interest to ensure compliance and to respond to requests from OTCO with a timely response. Unfortunately, a noncompliance that could be immediately cleared with a corrective action — such as submitting additional purchase records — will turn into an adverse action if it is not addressed.

What happens if I get an adverse action during the application process?

We may issue a denial of certification when an operation fails to comply with the certification’s standards. Denials may also be issued when operations do not respond to noncompliances issued or have not paid certification fees.

When would OTCO propose a suspension of certification?

We will propose suspension when evidence demonstrates a violation of the standard is not correctable, or when a corrective action is not implemented. Additionally, OTCO may propose suspension when a certified operation fails to respond to requests within a specified deadline.

What happens if I receive a proposed suspension?

Upon receipt of a proposed suspension, operations will have 30 days to either (a) appeal or (b) request mediation. If neither are received, OTCO immediately will issue a suspension that remains in effect until reinstatement is granted by the proper authorities. All sales of organic products are prohibited during the suspension.

When would OTCO propose a revocation of certification?

When OTCO determines an operation willfully violated the standards (e.g., fraud, etc.), it will immediately issue a proposed revocation of certification. All persons legally connected to the operation are ineligible to receive organic certification again for at least five years.

What happens if I receive a proposed revocation of certification?

Upon receipt of a proposed revocation, operations will have 30 days to (a) appeal or (b) request a mediation. If neither are received, revocation immediately is effective following 30 days. All sales of organic products are prohibited until the official reinstatement of certification after at least five years.

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