Regulating organic products in Canada

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Any agricultural product that is labelled organic (including food for human consumption, livestock feed and seeds) is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Producers of these products must be prepared demonstrate that organic claims are truthful and not misleading, and that all commodity-specific requirements have been met. All food sold in Canada must comply with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations,the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations, and any commodity-specific requirements, such as those for dairy, eggs and meat.

Compliance with the Organic Products Regulations, 2009 is also required if the product:

  • has an organic claim on the label and is sold between provinces or territories or imported; or
  • displays the Canada Organic Logo on the label and is sold within or outside of Canada.

What are the Canadian Organic Standards?

Under the Organic Products Regulations, 2009, products must be certified organic according to the Canadian Organic Standards. This includes two national standards:

  • CAN/CGSB 32.310 – Organic Production Systems – General Principles and Management Standards
  • CAN/CGSB 32.311 – Organic Production Systems – Permitted Substances Lists

What is the Canada Organic Regime?

The Canada Organic Regime refers to the organic certification system outlined in the Organic Products Regulations, 2009. The purpose of the Canada Organic Regime is to regulate all parties involved in the certification of agricultural organic products and to verify all applicable regulatory requirements, standards and guidance documents are being met.

Who is responsible for the Canada Organic Regime?

The CFIA oversees, monitors and enforces the requirements of the Canada Organic Regime using a third-party service delivery model that includes conformity verification bodies, certification bodies and organic operators.

  • 1) CFIA
    • Sets the federal rules for the Canada Organic Regime
    • Designates and audits conformity verification bodies
    • Accredits certification bodies
    • Establishes organic equivalency arrangements with other countries
  • 2) Conformity verification bodies
    • Assess applications from certification bodies and submit recommendations for accreditation of certification bodies to the CFIA
    • Monitor the accredited certification bodies
  • 3) Certification bodies
    • Verify that operators produce organic products in compliance with the Canadian Organic Standards
    • Issue certificates for organic products as well as for the activities of packaging and labelling when meeting the Canadian Organic Standards
  • 4) Operators producing organic products
    • Comply with the Canadian Organic Standards
    • Comply with any relevant Canadian legislation

What is a certified organic product?

A product can be certified organic if it has been certified by an accredited certification body that it meets the Canadian Organic Standards. Any product label that displays the Canada organic logo or claims the product has 70 per cent or more organic ingredients must include the name of the certification body that certified it.

What products can display the Canada organic logo on the label?

this is an example of the permitted presentation of the Canada organic logo in colour

Use of the Canada organic logo is voluntary and only permitted on products with 95 per cent or more organic content that have been certified according to the requirements of the Canada Organic Regime.

What are the requirements for imported organic agricultural products?

Imported organic agricultural products may be certified to the Canadian Organic Standards or be certified in accordance with an equivalency arrangement established between Canada and the exporting country. Where an equivalency arrangement is in place, organic products may be certified by a certification body accredited by that country and recognized by Canada. Imported certified organic products with 95 per cent or more organic ingredients may display the Canada organic logo on the labels. All relevant Canadian legislation would also continue to apply for the imported product.

What is required when exporting organic agricultural products to countries under equivalency arrangements with Canada?

Any exported agricultural product with an organic claim must meet the requirements of the Canada Organic Regime and the terms of the equivalency arrangement. Exported organic products that do not meet these requirements cannot display the Canada organic logo on the label and cannot be marketed as organic.

What is required when exporting organic agricultural products to countries not covered under equivalency arrangements with Canada?

Products with organic claims being exported to a country not covered under an equivalency arrangement with Canada must meet the requirements of the importing country. In order to display the Canada organic logo or be marketed as organic in Canada, these products would also need to meet the requirements of the Canada Organic Regime.

What is required for products labelled organic that are only sold within a province or territory and do not display the Canada organic logo on the label?

The Organic Products Regulations, 2009, do not apply to organic products that are only sold within a province or territory and do not display the Canada organic logo. For these products, the CFIA would verify on complaint that organic claims are truthful and not misleading, as required under the Food and Drugs Act as well as the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. For example, the CFIA inspector may verify the validity of the organic claim by:

  • evaluating the production methods against the company's organic plan;
  • checking the company's records; and/or
  • identifying the areas where organic products could be contaminated with prohibited substances and/or come into contact with non-organic products.

Provincial organic requirements apply within British Columbia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Quebec.

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