Organic certification under scrutiny for U.S. importer Pichuberry
A German certifier and a Colombia-based goldenberry grower-exporter allege U.S.-based importer Pichuberry has misused their names on an allegedly fraudulent organic certification document provided to a customer.
In its dealings with FreshPack Produce late last year, Pichuberry provided a National Organic Program (NOP) certificate which listed CERES (Certification of Environmental Standards GmbH) as the certifier of five organic goldenberry products, using the fruit's other common name of 'physalis'.
Speaking with Fresh Fruit Portal, CERES managing partner Albrecht Benzing said he was alerted to the matter by a member of the NOP forum.
"I don’t know who they are. I’ve never dealt with them," he said of Pichuberry.
"This was forwarded to us by Sam Welsch from OneCert in Nebraska, and he asked us if this was a genuine CERES certificate because it looked suspicious to him, and of course it was not [genuine].
"And so I informed the NOP in Washington and the other U.S. certifiers that they should pay attention that this is not a genuine certificate."
FreshPack Produce vice president Dave Maynard told Fresh Fruit Portal he could not comment on the matter as his team was still investigating the issue, but since it had been brought to their attention they had put a freeze on imports from Pichuberry.
A representative of grower-exporter CI Andes Export Company SAS Colombia was surprised to see his company's name on the document provided by Pichuberry as well.
"I, Johan Beckers, can certify that CI Andes Export Company SAS and our US office, Good Natured Foods, has only sold conventional (non-organic) fresh goldenberries to Pichuberry," company president Johan Beckers said in a statement.
"The last time we sold to them was in 2015. And we have never, ever sold them organic goldenberries. Also we only sell fresh and dried organic goldenberries, we do not sell chocolate covered goldenberries, goldenberry jams or goldenberry purees."
These last three products mentioned were listed as products sourced in the document concerned.
After a discussion of the issue with Pichuberry CEO Michael Popescu, he provided a written statement.
"It appears the wrong certificate was sent over to our customer. This is in process of being corrected. It does appear that there was confusion on the supplier," Popescu said.