Canadian Food Inspection Agency peer review report on Switzerland's organic system – 2017
Abbreviations and special terms used in this report
- Accreditation body
- Cantonal Food Authorities
- Control/Certification body
- Swiss Francs
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency
- European Union
- The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture
- Federal Office for Agriculture
- Food Safety and Veterinary Office
- Full-time equivalents
- International Organization for Standardization
- Organic Enforcement Working Group
- Organic Farming Ordinance
- Permitted substances list
- Swiss Accreditation Service
- Switzerland-Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement
This report summarizes observations made during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) May 2017 on-site assessment of the Swiss Organic Program.
The objective of the assessment was to determine the extent to which the Swiss competent authority, that is the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) demonstrates conformity with the requirements specified in the Switzerland-Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement (SCOEA).
The assessment was conducted from May 8 to May 12, 2017 at sites in three different cantons. It included meetings with the competent authority, two primary production units (farms), 2 multi- ingredient processing facilities, 2 Control Bodies (CBs) and one Cantonal Food Safety Office.
The key elements of the assessment included the following:
- Current food legislative authorities, including regulations, standards, codes of practice, and arrangements. In particular:
- authority to recognize and accredit parties involved in the Swiss Organic Program
- authority to carry out monitoring and surveillance activities
- authority to respond to non-compliances where risk has been identified, for example, recalls, other control and enforcement activities
- Current food legislative authorities, including regulations, standards, codes of practice, and arrangements. In particular:
- Government organization and resources
- The roles and responsibilities of the various government departments and authorities involved in the Swiss Organic Program.
- The resources, responsibilities, functions, and coordination between the parties involved in the Swiss Organic Program.
- Resources and competencies of the parties involved in the delivery of the Swiss Organic System.
- Third parties involved in the implementation of the Swiss Organic Program
- Organizations responsible for the implementation of the Swiss Organic Program and their relationship with the FOAG.
- Inspection, enforcement and surveillance activities
- The role of the FOAG, Cantonal Food Authorities (CA) and the CBs in inspection, surveillance, and enforcement.
The assessment determined that the FOAG has implemented a control system for the certification of organic operators that is supported by good collaboration between the FOAG, CAs and the CBs.
This system guarantees that all products certified under the Organic Farming Ordinance (OFO) can be exported and marketed in Canada as organic.
This report provides a number of recommendations which highlight opportunities for improvement and enhancement of the implementation of the Swiss Organic Program.
The observations and recommendations contained in this report are based on information provided to the assessment team through the Canadian peer review questionnaire, personal interviews, and on-site observation. They represent the collective understanding of the members of the assessment team.
The initial SCOEA between Canada and Switzerland, signed in 2012, had limited scope. Following a review of Switzerland's organic program, the Canadian government entered into an expanded arrangement for the trade of organic products with Switzerland in September, 2016.
As per the conditions of arrangement, following advanced notice from the CFIA, the Swiss FOAG agreed to accommodate the CFIA's request to conduct an evaluation (on-site peer review) to verify how Switzerland's accredited CBs carry out the requirements of the Swiss organic certification program.
2. Objectives of the on-site assessment
The objective of the assessment was to determine the extent to which the Swiss competent authority (that is, the FOAG) demonstrates conformity with the requirements specified in the SCOEA (2016).
3. On-site assessment criteria
The following references were used during the on-site assessment:
- CFIA peer review procedure related to the Canada Organic Regime (COR)
- Ordinance on Organic Farming and the Labelling of Organically Produced Products and Foodstuffs (Organic Farming Ordinance) - PDF (242 kb)
- EAR Ordinance on Organic Farming - PDF (474 kb)
4. On-site assessment protocol
The CFIA's audit team planned and conducted the on-site assessment in a manner which allowed the team to obtain sufficient information to confirm the observations and conclusions described thereafter. The on-site peer review was conducted in accordance with Canada's Organic Regime peer review procedure and included:
|Competent Authority the FOAG and the Swiss Accreditation Service (SAS), FOAG Headquarters, Bern||May 8, 2017|
|CB 1 – Headquarters||May 9, 2017|
|CA - Office for Consumer Protection||May 9, 2017|
|Organic livestock farm||May 9, 2017|
|CB 2 – Headquarters||May 10, 2017|
|Organic seed, livestock and solar farm||May 11, 2017|
|Operation processing organic fruit and vegetable juices||May 10, 2017|
|Operation manufacturing dehydrated organic fruit and vegetable products||May 11, 2017|
As part of the on-site verification, the CFIA audit team reviewed each level of Switzerland's organic system (administration, accreditation, certification and production) to confirm that the responsible authorities have the necessary controls in place to ensure compliance with the OFO. In doing so, the team:
- met with representatives from the FOAG to review the administration of the organic system and to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved in the system
- met with a representative of the SAS to discuss their involvement in the accreditation of the parties involved in the Swiss organic system
- met with representatives of one CA to better understand their role in enforcement, other activities they conduct in the organic sphere, as well as their administrative processes and procedures
- met with representatives from two CBs to review their certification processes and procedures
- visited two organic farms and two food processing operations to observe the production, handling and labelling of organic foods, to interview production managers/owners to determine the level of compliance accomplished by the operators within the scope of this assessment, and, to confirm their knowledge of the Swiss organic system
- kept the FOAG informed of any potential areas of concern as they were identified
5. Overview of the Swiss organic sector
The Swiss organic industry is well-established. Valued at more than 2.25 million Swiss Francs (CHF)Footnote 1, it consists of 7,050 organic farms representing 13.8% of agricultural land use, and 1,936 organic processors, importers and traders. Swiss consumers spend more on organic products per capita than any other country (299 CHF). This, in addition to various government initiatives (subsidies, etc.) drives the growth rate of more than 10% per annum. Although Switzerland is a net importer of organic products (cereals, fruits and vegetables, processed foods), some value-added organic products such as coffee, chocolate, muesli, milk and cheese products are exported to Canada.
5.1 National legislation and national standards
Switzerland's organic control system is based on the following pieces of legislation:
- Ordinance 910.18 (SR 910.18) on Organic Farming and the Labelling of Organically Produced Products and Foodstuff (OFO)
- Ordinance 910.181 SR 910.181) on Organic Farming of the Federal Department of Economy, Education and Research
In 2015, Switzerland revised their Swiss Organic Farming Regulations 910.18 and 918.181, taking into account the provisions of the European Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 392/2013. The revisions entered into force on January 1, 2015, making clear distinction between supervision and accreditation tasks conducted on the CBs to ensure independent supervision of the CBs.
5.2 Structure of the Swiss Organic Program
The Swiss organic control system covers the activities performed by operators at all stages of the production, preparation and distribution chain from farm to fork. Operators are free to choose any of the four CBs offering certification services in Switzerland. The CBs are accredited by the SAS and, supervised by the FOAG. The CBs charge operators with a fee for their control and certification services. Fees are not regulated.
5.2.1 The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)
The FSVO is responsible for the production of safe food and protection of consumer health in Switzerland. They have offices in each canton which enforce the federal food law including storage and labelling of organic products. At a high level, the FSVO is responsible for:
- preparing national acts and ordinances pertaining to food safety and quality
- implementing national regulations (border inspections, export)
- coordinating and supporting uniform implementation in the cantons
- organising training and further education programmes
- managing information and communication
- conducting research
- cooperating with national and international organisations
5.2.2 The FOAG
The Swiss Organic Program is administered by the Quality and Sales Promotion Unit of the FOAG's Markets and Added Value Directorate. Their main organic-associated tasks are to:
- draft legislation which aligns with the European Union (EU) provisions for organic production
- enforce/implement the OFOs and binding instructions
- recognize collaboration bodies (as of January 1, 2018)
- supervise the authorized CBs operating in the area of organic farming
- grant authorizations re. derogations/exceptional production rules
- coordinate communication between regulatory authorities and CBs
- chair the Organic Enforcement Working Group (OEWG)
- manage international affairs
- inform trading partners of any infringements and irregularities
These activities are conducted by 5 persons representing 2.5 full-time equivalents (FTE) who are located at the FOAG headquarters in Bern.
5.2.3 The CAs
The CAs are responsible for:
- enforcement of the OFO at the cantonal (local) level
- inspecting premises (environment, buildings, equipment, devices) to verify the implementation of the OFO
- inspecting production processes (handling, processing, storage, traceability and recall procedures) to verify the implementation of the OFO
- taking samples to confirm compliance
- following up on complaints and notifications from other jurisdictions and consumers
- taking appropriate enforcement actions when warranted
Cooperation between cantons is facilitated through quarterly meetings of the Swiss Association of Cantonal Chemists which are conducted jointly with the FSVO.
The CAs work in collaboration with the FOAG, notifying them when the presence of chemical residues is detected in organic products.
Each of Switzerland's 26 cantons typically has both a food authority and, a veterinary office which conduct approximately 3,400 inspections per year. Depending on the size of the canton, some offices are shared between two or more cantons.
5.2.4 The SAS
Created in 1991, the SAS is a government organization which is affiliated with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. Its responsibilities are defined in the Federal Law on Technical Barriers to Trade (SR 946.51) and, the Ordinance on Accreditation and Notification (SR 946.512).
As a member of several international accreditation fora and committees the SAS is subject to peer reviews by various organizations such as the European Co-operation for Accreditation, the International Accreditation Forum, and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation.
The SAS currently employs 40 permanent staff (35.4 FTEs) and engages 478 external experts. They have an operating budget of 10 million CHF.Footnote 2
Their main activities include:
- granting and withdrawing accreditation of laboratories (testing and calibration, medical)
- granting and withdrawing accreditation of inspection bodies
- granting and withdrawing accreditation of certification bodies (for management systems, persons, and products)
- providing both proficiency tests and reference materials
As per the provisions of Swiss/EU regulation 834/2007, the SAS accredits both inspection bodies and product certification bodies to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 17065.
5.2.5 The CBs
Switzerland's four CBs are designated with inspection and certification tasks which include:
- conducting both annual and risk-based inspections
- verifying ingredients meet the OFO
- issuing organic certificates for processes
- issuing sanctions in accordance with the sanction catalogue which is agreed to by all Swiss CBs
- following up on complaints and notifications from CAs
- monitoring and assessing the work of the CB's inspectors
The size of each CB varies depending on the number of clients. While some CBs work only within Switzerland, others conduct activities internationally.
Representatives from each CB participate in the OEWG which is chaired by the FOAG. The mandate of the group is to discuss certification issues related to implementation of the ordinance. The group has agreed on a catalogue of enforcement measures and sanctions. They share relevant information related to their inspections to ensure good communication and consistency between CBs.
5.2.6 Certified organic operators
The Swiss organic community consists of approximately 7,050 organic farms and, 2,000 organic processors and trading companies. They vary in size, complexity, and market scope, for example import and/or export.
In 2016, 88% of all organic farms were under the direct payment scheme administered by the FOAG which was designed to support the development of the organic sector.
All farmers must have a minimum of 3 years of experience (2 years on the farm and 1 year in agricultural school) in order to manage their own farm and, to be eligible for subsidies.
6. Implementation of the Swiss Organic Program
6.1 Accreditation and supervision of CBs
The FOAG office is the competent authority responsible for the oversight of the organic system in Switzerland. This system covers the activities performed by operators at all stages of the production, preparation and distribution chain from farm to fork.
In 2015, Switzerland revised its control and supervisory system to clarify the difference between the accreditation and supervision tasks.
While the accreditation of the CBs is granted by the SAS, the supervision of the CB is conducted by both the SAS and the FOAG. The SAS and the FOAG carried out separate surveillance activities on CBs by using their own tools to record their observations. All records are well maintained and easily retrievable.
6.1.2 Domestic CBs
Switzerland's four CBs are accredited by the SAS to ISO 17065.
While two CBs are accredited to certify primary production activities, the other two CBs are accredited to certify processing activities.
Assessment activities required under the OFO accreditation process are led by the SAS.
Accreditation is granted for a period of 5 years during which time the CBs are subject to various supervision activities by both the SAS and the FOAG. These are conducted through on-site office and witness audits. No documents are issued to the CB to reaffirm their ongoing accreditation during the 5 year cycle.
While the SAS's annual surveillance activities focus on compliance to ISO 17065, the FOAG's annual surveillance examine the implementation of the OFO, that is risk assessment, risk-based planning of inspections, effective management of complaints, and implementation of sanction measures consistent with the sanctions catalogue. The FOAG takes into account results of the SAS's surveillance reports when planning their on-site activities.
In addition, both the SAS and the FOAG conduct witness audits. The SAS conducts at least one annual witness audit per type of production, for example livestock, farm, processing, importing, trading, etc. according to their 5 year accreditation cycle.
Article 33 of the OFO requires the FOAG to conduct annual supervisory activities of the CBs.
In 2015, the FOAG started to conduct supervisory activities, and to develop their program including specific criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the CBs, and a regular schedule. The FOAG has developed procedures and tools to conduct and document their supervision activities.
The FOAG has conducted the following activities independently from the SAS:
- in 2015: 4 office audits
- in 2016: 4 office audits and 2 witness audits
- in 2017: at the time of the CFIA peer review the FOAG had conducted 1 office audit and 1 witness audit
CBs are required to submit annual reports to the FOAG. These are used to prepare the FOAG's surveillance visits and, to assess the overall performance of the CBs.
The FOAG classifies the findings of surveillance activities as recommendations and non-compliances while the SAS issues non conformities (major and minor). The CFIA team noted that the timeframe in which CBs must address these findings is not standardized.
Currently, the FOAG does not issue any formal letter of recognition to the CBs, nor do they have the authority to suspend or cancel the accreditation of a CB. Instead, the CBs and inspection authorities are listed in Annex 4a of the EAR Ordinance on Organic Farming - PDF (474 kb).
The process of reaccreditation is not as comprehensive as the process of initial accreditation since the SAS takes into consideration the history of previous assessments. As a result of the process the SAS issues an accreditation letter which specifies the scope of accreditation.
6.1.3 International CBs
Article 23 of the OFO provides the legal basis for the FOAG to recognise international CBs operating in third countries. Switzerland has 43 such CBs. In order to be recognised as an international CB under the OFO, each CB has to be accredited to ISO 17065 by an accreditation body (AB), for example the SAS, German National Accreditation Body, and the United Kingdom Accreditation Services before they can request recognition by the FOAG. They submit a request to the FOAG by completing a standard application form and, providing information on their accreditation and, their certification activities (geographical scope, product categories, standards to which they certify). The FOAG has developed a checklist to screen each application. The CFIA team noted that CB applications are only verified for completeness instead of being evaluated to confirm competency and sufficient resources.
The FOAG issues a letter of recognition to successful applicants. The rules are clearly stated in the "order" (legal letter) issued to the CB. For example, the validation is defined and the CB must inform the FOAG immediately if substantial changes are made to the information contained in the technical dossier submitted to the FOAG. Moreover, the recognition is not transferable, etc. The team observed that some recognition letters were issued for 2 years while others were for 3 years.
Once recognised, the international CBs are required to provide annual reports to the FOAG. The CFIA team observed that the FOAG does not evaluate these reports. Again, they are just verified for completeness.
In addition, the AB responsible for the supervision of the international CBs is also required to provide annual surveillance reports to the FOAG. The quality of these reports was observed to vary between ABs. The reports are lengthy and cover all certification activities conducted by the CB. The FOAG does not review these reports. Instead, they rely solely on information provided by the EU to confirm ongoing recognition of the international CBs. The EU reviews these reports and issues non-conformities (NC). The FOAG receives copies of these NCs and information on how CBs address them.
6.2 Implementation of the OFO by the CB
The CFIA audit team visited the headquarters of two CBs which are accredited to multiple systems to conduct both domestic and international activities. They are adequately resourced and have invested resources to train their staff including inspectors.
Both CBs have a well-developed quality management system and related procedures and agile tools which comply with ISO 17065 and the requirements of the OFO.
Both CBs have developed impartiality committees as a result of a new ISO requirement, and databases which allow them to schedule inspections in a timely manner while ensuring a good rotation of inspectors. They have also implemented well-developed certification processes, and an infrastructure, procedures and tools to deliver their activities effectively.
Systems are in place to ensure that on-site inspections are conducted by well-trained inspectors. They prepare inspection reports which are used by the CBs Certification Committee to make certification decisions. The inspectors are subject to formal annual performance monitoring process by their CBs which identify the type of training needed by the inspectors.
The duration of inspections varies depending on the nature and complexity of the farm and/or processing facility. As a result of these inspections, the CBs can issue NCs. These are discussed with the operator at the closing meeting during which the parties agree on the timeframe to address them.
The CFIA team observed that the categorization of and timelines to address the NCs vary between the two CBs as well as between farmers and processors. In addition, the sanction catalogue used by the CBs for the farmers differs from the catalogue used for the other operators.
During each inspection, inspectors are required to verify that all inputs used by famers and operators are on the permitted substances list (PSL). The OFO stipulates that it is responsibility of the CBs to verify that all inputs used by the operators are these on the PSL.
The CFIA team observed that the CBs rely and trust two independent organizations (the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and Info X Gen) to generate a list of approved inputs which lists various trade names, etc. of for example fertilisers, processing aids, cleaning materials, etc. of the product on the PSL. This serves as an aid to both operators and inspectors. The approved inputs should only contain substances from the PSL.
The CFIA team observed that there is no contractual agreement between these parties to protect liability in the event of an issue such as the presence of a prohibited substance which was not properly assessed by these independent organizations. In such a case, it is not clear who will take responsibility.
In addition to the annual inspections, both CBs conduct an additional 10% (of the total number of operators) of both risk-based inspections and unannounced inspections as required by Article 30 (2) of the OFO. Each CB has developed a risk assessment table based on criteria including the number of irregularities (infringements, positive tests), the nature and complexity of the operation, etc. The additional inspections are prioritized based on the outcome of the risk assessment process.
As part of the inspections, inspectors take samples according to the annual sampling plan developed by their CB. CBs are required to report to the FOAG any results of positive detection of chemical residues.
The team confirmed that in 2016, both CBs were subject to annual surveillance activities including witness audits by the FOAG and the SAS.
It was observed that there is good communication between the FOAG, the SAS, the CAs and CBs.
Verification of import controls are performed during annual inspections. Importers must submit a certificate of each consignment to their CB, and the CB must verify that the consignment and the certificate of inspection meet the requirements of the Swiss ordinance.
Once the inspection is finalised and all NCs addressed, the CB makes a certification decision and each operator receives a certification document which confirms that the operator fulfils the requirements of the OFO. The CBs publishes an up-to-date list of valid certificates of all operators they certify on their website.
The CBs keep their operators informed of any new organic requirements by issuing bulletins, brochures, etc. Generally, the operators are given up to a year to implement the new requirements.
6.2.2 Certification and supervision of operators
184.108.40.206 Certification of organic farms (crops, livestock)
The two organic farms included in the assessment have been certified as organic for a long period of time. In addition to the certification under the OFO, the farms have Bio-Suisse certification which is recognized private certification in Switzerland.
The CFIA team observed parts of inspections being conducted by inspectors from two different CBs at two organic farms, including both livestock and crop production. Each inspector receives inspection orders from their CB which direct them to conduct specific inspections. Both inspectors used electronic checklists to assess compliance to the OFO. The CFIA team observed consistencies in how the inspections were conducted: they both included a tour of the farm, review of relevant documentation, condition of the soil and animals, inputs used, storage, etc.
The OFO requires the domestic CBs to take samples and test at least 5% of the number of operators subject to inspection. No samples were taken at the operators visited.
The inspection checklist served as the inspection report. It was signed by both parties at the closing meetings. A copy of the report was sent to the operator by mail.
Each farmer had a contract with a CB and had been certified under the same CB for some time. Both farms were subject to annual inspections as well as unannounced inspections. The team confirmed that the inspections were conducted by different inspectors and, that inspections generally lasted between 2.5 – 3 hrs.
Operators have 3 days in which to request a second inspection if they are not satisfied with the first one.
No NCs were issued during the inspections observed; however, operators were knowledgeable about the process involved, that is that NCs are assigned based on a points system which is linked to the subsidy program via a national sanctions catalogue. The penalties associated provide motivation to the operators to correct and prevent non-compliance.
All operators submit their organic plan to both the CB and, to the canton - which is responsible for administering the subsidy program.
220.127.116.11 Certification of organic processing
The CFIA's assessment team visited two processors of single and multi-ingredient organic products. Both operators trade internationally. They have been certified for a long period of time by the same CBs, and are certified against multiple standards.
Company A: Operation manufacturing dehydrated organic fruit and vegetable products
The certified products included dehydrated (fine powder) organic fruit and vegetable products. Some of the products are exported to Canada as raw materials used in production of baby food. The company is aware of the SCOEA.
The CFIA team did a tour of the processing facility. The traceability and the import controls were discussed with the representatives from the company.
The company explained that raw material sourcing is coordinated by the parent company and that all suppliers go through an approval process. Each ingredient comes with an organic certificate, label, CB control number and any additional documentation required by the company.
Raw materials are received in bulk from external storage areas which are certified separately. All raw materials are subject to pre-shipment sampling and additional sampling at receipt. The facility has its own laboratory to test for sensory, micro quality and heat resistance. Samples for chemical residues are sent to Germany for analysis. The company has a process in place to control the movement of any raw ingredient which contains chemical residues. The company develops a risk-based sampling plan which is based on trust and confidence in (history with) suppliers.
During the interview with the company representative the CFIA team confirmed that the annual inspection lasts from four hours to one day. The company had not been subject to an unannounced inspection; however, this site has been subject to regular inspection by the food safety authorities from the canton.
In the last 5 years the company was inspected by 3 different inspectors from the CB.
The company is required to submit an updated organic plan (profile) to the CB on an annual basis. This is used by the CB to prepare for their annual inspection.
Notification of the inspection is usually sent to the operator 4 weeks in advance. If no organic runs are scheduled for the identified timeframe, the operator notifies the CB and the inspection may be rescheduled or, conducted on a conventional product run.
During the inspection, inspectors tour the facility, check the equipment, discuss procedures for storage and cleaning, and verifies the list of suppliers, organic certificates for national and international raw materials, list of product range (organic and conventional), and list of organic products that are sub-contracted or stored. They also conduct an input/output balance.
Inspection findings are classified as NCs. The inspector leaves a record of the NCs which is signed by both parties. A final inspection report is provided by letter within a week. It identifies the specific timeframes in which to address the NCs. Once the NCs have been addressed, the CB makes a certification decision and issues an updated certificate to the client.
Company B: Operation processing organic fruit and vegetable juices
The certified products include range of organic fruit and vegetable juices. Some of the products are exported to Canada and the company is aware of the SCOEA.
The team observed how labelling and traceability verification activities are conducted by an inspector as part of their annual inspection.
The inspector followed the CBs established procedures for validating the company's traceability controls for raw ingredients (certificate of inspection, labelling, invoices, input/output balance, etc.) and the import controls. The documentation accompanying shipments of any organic ingredient need to prove their organic origin. The inspector did the traceability exercise by selecting one multi-ingredient product and tracing back all ingredients back to the suppliers. The outcome from the exercise was determined to be satisfactory.
It was discussed that the company samples raw materials for chemical residues prior to using them in their production.
Both the company representatives and the inspector are aware of the labelling requirements in Canada and examples of organic labels intended for the Canadian market were reviewed.
7. Enforcement of the OFO
7.1 Management of complaints
The FOAG does not deal directly with complaints. Complaints received by the FOAG are referred to the CAs or CBs to manage, depending on the nature of the complaint. However, the FOAG is required to address letters from public and international notifications.
7.2 Market control of organic products
The CAs are responsible for the market control of organic products (traceability) and fraud-related investigations within the framework of the Swiss Food Law.
CAs coordinate and lead the chemical residues investigations taking into consideration Directive 22 from 2015 issued by FSVO.
The CAs would take enforcement actions on the affected product. The CFIA team was informed that as soon as the testing reveals residues above 0.01 parts per million (ppm) the CA has the authority to stop the marketing of the product.
The CAs lead the investigation when chemical residues are detected in organic products at retail level and both the FOAG and the CBs are notified. The CFIA team noted that the CB involvement is very limited although they are the expert in certification.
8. FOAG communication with the SAS, CAs, CBs, and the operators
The CFIA team confirmed that the communication between the different parties involved in the implementation of the OFO is well established, open and often a two-way dialogue. The OEWG chaired by the FOAG allows representatives from the federal FSVO, CAs, the SAS, CBs and Federal research institute to discuss various topics related to the implementation and enforcement of the OFO.
There is also good communication and co-operation amongst the four CBs in Switzerland. Often the CBs would share relevant information regarding the results of their on–site inspections.
9. Closing meeting
A closing meeting with representative of the FOAG and the SAS was held at the FOAG headquarters on May 12, 2017. During the meeting the assessment team presented a summary of their observations and recommendations. The FOAG and the SAS had the opportunity to discuss the observations. Next steps were then discussed and agreed upon.
10. Overall conclusions
All representatives involved in the assessment – from the staff at the FOAG, the SAS, the CAs and the CBs, to the operators were helpful, responsive, and accommodating to the assessment team during the on-site assessment.
Overall, the CFIA auditors determined that the FOAG provides good/strong oversight of the Swiss Organic Program and there is good collaboration between Federal and CAs as well as with the CBs.
The organic sector is well-developed and mature with dedicated and competent personnel.
There is strong commitment and understanding from all parties involved in the implementation of the OFO
There is good understanding of the SCOEA and the requirements to accept organic products from Canada and to export organic products to Canada
This instills confidence that the certification of organic products exported to Canada meet the terms of the SCOEA.
11. Observations and recommendations
The FOAG was invited to comment on the recommendations listed in the table below and to provide details on their intention to implement them in the table included in Annex A:
|No||CFIA observation||CFIA recommendation|
|1.||The CFIA team observed that the CBs rely and trust independent organizations to generate a list of approved inputs which lists various trade names however there is no contractual agreement between these parties.||Consider developing requirements for contractual agreement between the domestic CBs and the parties involved in the input assessment to protect liability in the event of an issue such as the presence of a prohibited substance which was not properly assessed by these independent organizations.|
|2.||The CFIA team observed that the categorization of and timelines to address the NCs vary between the two CBs as well as between farmers and processors. The sanction catalogue used by the CBs for the farmers differs from the catalogue used for the operators because the farm system is linked to the Swiss subsidy program.||Consider working with the domestic CBs to defining the NC issued to the operators and the timelines to address them.|
|3.||The FOAG classifies the findings of surveillance activities as recommendations and non-compliances while the SAS issues non conformities (major and minor). The CFIA team noted that the timeframe in which CBs must address these findings is not standardized||Review the current NC definition and how these are handled by the SAS.|
|4.||Currently, the FOAG does not issue any formal letter of recognition to the CBs, nor do they have the authority to suspend or cancel the accreditation of a CB.||Review the FOAG oversight process for approving the CBs to ensure that the FOAG has the legal authority to suspend or cancel the authorization of the CBs.|
|5.||Currently, the FOAG does not issue any formal letter of recognition to the CBs.||Consider formalizing the legal relations between the FOAG and the domestic CBs.|
|6.||The FOAG classifies the findings of surveillance activities as recommendations and non-compliances while the SAS issues non conformities (major and minor). The CFIA team noted that the timeframe in which CBs must address these findings is not standardized.||Consider developing a standardized timelines for the domestic CBs to address the observations made by the FOAG as part of their surveillance activities.|
|7.||Once recognised, the international CBs are required to provide annual reports to the FOAG. The CFIA team observed that the FOAG does not evaluate these reports. They are just verified for completeness.||Consider developing means to supervise the work of the international CBs including evaluation of the CBs' annual reports.|
|8.||The CFIA team noted that the CB involvement in an investigation when chemical residues are detected in organic products at retail level is very limited although they are the expert in certification||Evaluate the needs to involve the domestic CBs in the investigation of chemical residues currently led by the CAs|
|9.||The CFIA team noted that the CB involvement in an investigation when chemical residues are detected in organic products at retail level is very limited although they are the expert in certification||Consider training the CAs and the CBs in the light of the new Food Law as relates to follow up on chemical residues|
12. Next steps
The FOAG is requested to provide an update on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations in the annual report in March, 2018.
Annex A: Summary of the FOAG's action plans/comments to the CFIA's recommendations from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency peer review report on Switzerland's organic system - 2017
|No||CFIA recommendation||FOAG's action plans|
|1.0||Consider developing requirements for contractual agreement between the domestic CBs and the parties involved in the input assessment to protect liability in the event of an issue such as the presence of a prohibited substance which was not properly assessed by these independent organizations.||In case of a damage resulting from an error in the FiBL input list, general liability law provisions would apply. However, at the occasion of the next annual office audits, FOAG shall instruct the two domestic CBs, which do inspection of farms, to develop requirements for a contractual agreement between the FiBL and them.|
|2.0||Consider working with the domestic CBs to defining the NC issued to the operators and the timelines to address them.||In Switzerland a comprehensive and harmonized sanction catalogue defining NC and enforcement measures for organic primary product producers (farms) exists. The sanction catalogues of the CBs for processors, retailers, importers and exporters, however, are not yet harmonized. Therefore, the FOAG has initiated a process of comparison and discussion between the domestic CBs with the objective to develop a harmonized sanction catalogue also for these categories of operators at Swiss level. If no harmonization can be reached, the FOAG is entitled to issue instructions (OFO, RS 910.18, Art. 32(5)).|
|3.0||Review the current NC definition and how these are handled by the SAS.||In cases where the FOAG finds a NC during its supervisory tasks at a CB, it issues a "recommendation" (German: Auflage). This means the FOAG requires the CB to take a corrective action. In cases where the FOAG observes a process, a document or a behavior, which is not a NC towards the organic ordinances, but still could be improved, the FOAG has the possibility to advise the CB to take a corrective action. In this case, the FOAG makes an "observation" (German: Empfehlung). This system has proved to be a very effective instrument for supervising CBs. It should not be changed.|
|4.0||Review the FOAG oversight process for approving the CBs to ensure that the FOAG has the legal authority to suspend or cancel the authorization of the CBs.||
A discussion around the missing legal authority of the FOAG to suspend or cancel the authorization of the CBs has led in December 2016 to a proposal to amend the OFO (RS 910.18) accordingly. By now, the proposal has passed two inter-service consultations and a public consultation.
The amendment shall enter into force as from 01 January 2018. With the new provisions, the legal relations between FOAG and the domestic CBs will be formalized. There will be a formal approval, and the possibility of suspension/withdrawal of the CBs authorization to carry out activities under the OFO.
|5.0||Consider formalizing the legal relations between the FOAG and the domestic CBs||See FOAG's comment to CFIA Recommendation No 4.0.|
|6.0||Consider developing a standardized timelines for the domestic CBs to address the observations made by the FOAG as part of their surveillance activities.||FOAG will add a section in the "guideline for audits" with criteria to define the timelines for domestic CBs to address the observations made by the FOAG.|
|7.0||Consider developing means to supervise the work of the international CBs including evaluation of the CBs' annual reports.||In the framework of Annex 9 of the Agricultural Agreement between the EU and Switzerland, a closer cooperation with the Commission of the European Union, especially with regard to imports and to the work of international CBs, shall be examined. In future, joint supervisory work may be possible.|
|8.0||Evaluate the needs to involve the domestic CBs in the investigation of chemical residues currently led by the CAs||In November 2015, the FOAG and the FSVO jointly issued instructions on residues in the organic sector. The instructions define the roles of the different parties involved in general and in particular outline the responsibilities of the CBs and the CAs during the investigations of residue cases.|
|9.0||Consider training the CAs and the CBs in the light of the new Food Law as relates to follow up on chemical residues||First positive experiences with the enforcement of the instructions on residues have been made over the last one and half year. Moreover, during the last OEWG, FOAG together with all participants identified the need to establish an experience and knowledge group for residues to handle complex cases. This group will meet for the first time in November 2017.|
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