Certification and labelling in Canada
The Canada Organic Regime (COR) is the Government of Canada’s response to requests by the organic sector and consumers to develop a regulated system for organic agricultural products. On June 30, 2009, The Organic Products Regulations (the Regulations) came into effect. The Regulations, made under the authority of the Canadian Agricultural Products Act, define specific requirements for organic products labelled as organic or that bear the organic agricultural product logo.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of the Regulations. Under the COR, Certification Bodies are accredited based on the recommendation of CFIA designated Conformity Verification Bodies. The Certification Bodies are responsible for verifying the application of the Canadian Organic Standards.
There are five main documents that comprise the Canada Organic Regime. These are:
- The Organic Products Regulations – regulations made under the authority of the Canadian Agricultural Products Act;
- The Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards, CAN/CGSB-32.310, to the extent these standards are incorporated by reference into the regulations – developed by the organic industry and the Canadian General Standards Board;
- The Organic Production Systems Permitted Substances List, CAN/CGSB-32.311 as incorporated by reference into the regulations and developed by the organic industry and the Canadian General Standards Board;
- The COO Quality Manual, and
- COO Operating Manual.
Collectively, these documents describe the Regulations, principles and management standards required of organic production systems as well as the list of substances permitted to be used in organic production. The COR is a robust and comprehensive regime covering every aspect of organic production, from planning and production right through to labelling and packaging.
The standards protect consumers against false claims and govern the use of the Canada Organic Biologique logo. While use of the logo (which appears above) is voluntary, all products bearing the logo are required to comply with the Organic Product Regulations. Use of the logo indicates that the product to which it is affixed has been certified as meeting the COR standards.
- Only products with organic content that is greater than or equal to 95% may be labelled as: “Organic” or bear the organic logo.
- Multi-ingredient products with 70-95% organic content may have the declaration: “contains x% organic ingredients.” These products may not use the organic logo and/or the claim “Organic”.
- Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may only contain organic claims in the product’s ingredient list. These products may not use the organic logo.
- Certified organic products must also bear the name of the certification body that has certified the product as organic.
The general principles of organic production outlined in the new standards are as follows:
- Protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health
- Maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil
- Maintain biological diversity within the system
- Recycle materials and resources to the greatest extent possible within the enterprise
- Provide attentive care that promotes the health and meets the behavioural needs of livestock
- Prepare organic products, emphasizing careful processing, and handling methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages of production
- Rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems
US and Canadian Organic Standards Equivalency Agreement
On June 18, 2009 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) signed an agreement recognizing each country’s organic standards as equivalent.
Under the equivalency agreement, which came into effect on July 1, 2009, any raw produce grown without Sodium Nitrate and processed products certified to the National Organic Program (NOP) standards are not required to become certified to the Canadian Organic Regime (COR) standards. Similarly, Canadian organic products certified to COR standards may be sold or labelled in the United States as organically produced.
Both the USDA Organic seal and the Canada Organic Biologique logo may be used on certified products from both countries, in addition to the certifier’s logo.