Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Growing Organic Food Market Pushes the Need for More Inspectors

It’s only a small slice of the entire food industry pie, but organic foods are increasingly satisfying the taste buds of United States consumers, particularly with the expanding wallets of Millennials.

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales contribute 5.3 percent of the total U.S. food market. But the organic foods growth rate has been hovering around eight to nine percent in recent years, compared to only three percent growth in the overall food industry.

Supporting that growth is a demand for organic food inspectors to ensure the safety and integrity of this niche market. That makes recruitment and training an integral part of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF).

On an average year, UDAF recruits and hires a number of inspectors that receive on-the-job training in areas such as seed and fertilizer inspection. From there, a select number are given the opportunity to receive advanced certification training in organic food growing and processing inspection through UDAF’s partnership with the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA).

“These trainings are essential to proper organic food and processing inspection techniques,” said Bracken Davis, deputy director of UDAF’s Plant Industry Division. “They learn the rules to a very complex program with lots of exceptions and that helps us ensure that consumers are getting what they expect.”

Davis went on to say that the eight to nine percent industry growth rate mirrors the need for more inspectors as Utah has seen its fair share of that increase. As such, he hopes funding for this program will continue to grow to meet the demand.

The most recent organic certification training was held in Ogden this month over a two-week period with the first week devoted to crop inspection and the second to processing inspection. Of the 18 attendees, five came from Utah. Others came from western states and one as far away as Florida.

“It’s been very good,” said Matthew Serfustini, a UDAF compliance specialist and organic food inspection trainee. “There are lots of specific examples – things I never would have thought of that link to the code and give you a better view of inspections generally.”