Guidelines for B.C.’s organic certification regulation

B.C. Agriculture Council
September 27, 2019
By B.C. Agriculture Council
The Ministry of Agriculture has recently updated the guidelines regarding organic certification in BC. Changes were made to provide greater clarity as to how to be in compliance with B.C.’s Organic Certification Regulation.

This Policy Guideline is intended to provide guidance to operators, manufacturers, and retailers in B.C. who are seeking clarity on how to be compliant with B.C.’s Organic Certification Regulation. This Guideline may be revised and new Guidelines issued from time-to-time.

As of September 1, 2018, the term “organic” is now a protected label within B.C. for agricultural and aquaculture products that have been produced or processed in B.C., and for which certified organic programs exist.

Currently Certified Organic programs exist in B.C. for food and beverages, feed, seed, flowers, pet food and any product made from 100 per cent agricultural or aquaculture products that can be assessed using the Canadian Organic Standard CAN/CGSB 32.310; 32.311 or 32.312.

Under B.C.’s Organic Certification Regulation, B.C.’s protected labels are expanded to include the term “organic”, including:
  • • Other grammatical forms of the term
  • • Phonetic representations of that term
  • • Abbreviations and symbols for that term. A person or enterprise may use a protected label if they hold organic certification through the B.C. Certified Organic Program (BCCOP) or the Canadian Organic Regime (COR).
Holding an organic certificate requires operators to act in compliance with organic certification requirements and production standards. Organic producers, processors, distributors and others in the supply chain who use the ‘organic’ protected label are expected to be able to produce proof of up-to-date certification or attestation upon request by a Ministry of Agriculture enforcement officer.

Uncertified operators in the province marketing their agricultural products as ‘organic’ could face penalties, including fines.

Certification Requirements Organic certification is required for any sort of organic claim, including “made with organic ingredients”, “made with X% organic ingredients”, “grown following organic principles”, “grown using organic sprays”, or “better than organic”.

Claims such as “uncertified organic” are not permitted. Processors and retailers are required to have organic certification for any products they process and that are marketed with an organic claim.

Organic certification is currently voluntary for selling bulk or prepackaged organic products, for changing the packaging/container of organic products, or for cutting singular organic products.

Retailers can make organic claims on products without having certification as long as: a) the organic products have been certified by a COR or BCCOP Certifying Body earlier in the supply chain and the retailer has the documentation on hand to back up that claim; b) the retailer has not processed, mixed or combined the organic ingredients. c) the retailer provides consumer labelling identifying the Certifying Body of the commodity; d) the organic integrity of the product is not compromised in any stage of preparation or during handling, which includes storing, grading, packing, shipping, marketing and labelling.

Organic Integrity British Columbia’s and Canada’s organic regulations require that the organic integrity of a product is not compromised in any stage of preparation or handling, which includes storing, grading, packing, shipping, marketing and labelling.

The Certified Organic Associations of B.C. (COABC) has created a B.C. Organic Retailing Guide and the Canadian Organic Trade Association is developing a training program for retailers to transfer knowledge about organic best practices – particularly with respect to high-risk areas of the store such as bulk, fresh produce and meat.

Organic Logos and Certification Body Identification Certified organic products may be marketed with the logo of the Certifying Body, the BCCOP or COR logo. In the case where the retailer doesn’t require certification to sell a product (eg. bulk organic apples) the retailer must provide consumer labelling identifying the original organic certification body and have the documentation on hand to back that up that claim.

The Certification Body can be identified anywhere on the product, including the front label, except the bottom of the container. Minimum type size for the certifier’s name is 1.6mm based on the lower-case letter “o.”

If an organic claim is made on a PLU sticker, the name of the Certification Body must also appear on the PLU. The label can display the name only of the Certification Body or a phrase containing it such as ‘certified by X Certification Body’ or ‘certified organic by X Certification Body; Importing Organic Products Across Borders Federal regulations separately govern interprovincial or international organic products.

If an organic product is imported across provincial or international borders and bears an organic claim, then the packing and labelling of the organic product is subject to Part 13 - Organic Products, Safe Food for Canadians Regulation.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

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