WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture needs a single agency policy that documents standards for marketing-based claims made under the Process Verified Program (PVP), the Office of the Inspector General said in a review of the program. The USDA Process Verified seal indicates the federal agency has audited a company’s processes behind claims made on product packaging.

The PVP is supposed to facilitate marketing of agricultural products, but the OIG found that the Agricultural Marketing Service, which administers the program, uses a “segmented process” that doesn’t clearly define which claims a company may use. This resulted in company’s being issued PVP certificates for claims that didn’t meet agency policy or weren’t reviewed by agency staff.

“We also found AMS developed the Never Ever 3 claim, which is important in the marketing of cattle, without sufficient evidence to ensure that feed did not include animal protein,” OIG said in its report. “Finally, we found that AMS did not maintain documentation to support the decisions it made to approve approximately 189 PVP process points in addition to an unknown number of denied PVP applications.”

The audit did not find problems with the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s controls related to the PVP “cage-free” claim.

As part of its PVP review, OIG sampled eight of the 54 companies that represented 78 of the 189 PVP process points verified by AMS, which included “cage-free” and “tenderness guaranteed” for chickens, and “never fed animal protein” for livestock.

View the entire report here:http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/50601-0002-23.pdf.