Medical marijuana producer at centre of recall has organic certification suspended
New Brunswick's Organigram says it will test for pesticides and install cameras in mixing areas
A Moncton, N.B., medical marijuana operation at the centre of a Health Canada recall continues to promote itself as organic on its website, even though its organic certification was suspended last month.
Federally licensed producer Organigram has been caught up in two voluntary recalls of almost all of its products sold in 2016 after residual levels of two banned pesticides, myclobutanil and bifenazate, were found.
CBC News has learned the recall triggered an investigation by Ecocert, a Quebec-based organic certification body recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Ecocert had approved Organigram's organic status.
The CFIA uses third-party certification bodies, such as Ecocert, to verify that operators produce organic products in compliance with the Canadian Organic Standards.
Ecocert's operations director, Sebastien Houle, said the investigation was launched after it was notified of the Organigram recall on Jan. 3. The probe examined the "verification of the production process, product used, nature of the pesticides found," Houle said in an email.
With traces of myclobutanil and bifenazate found, Houle said "the investigation highlighted non-compliances" in organic product rules. He would not elaborate, citing confidentiality. He said the company's organic certification is suspended until "compliance to the requirements are demonstrated."
'100% organic cannabis'
Even so, Organigram's website still made statements, as of Wednesday, such as "organic is just... better" and "100% organic cannabis." It included a section detailing its organic growing "methodology."
In an email, Organigram spokeswoman Giselle Doiron noted the company's organic certification had been suspended, not withdrawn. She said the company has worked closely with Ecocert.
"The presence of pesticides within our products were as much of a shock to them as it was to us, and we've identified several changes to our internal standard operating procedures that will ensure that this presence cannot occur in the future," she said.
Cameras and testing
Organigram has launched a number of "improvement initiatives," she said. Those include testing growing materials from outside suppliers, a "comprehensive screening process" for current and new suppliers, and testing every lot of final product for pesticides. The initiatives also involve installing cameras in mixing areas and a full training program for all employees.
Doiron said Organigram expects the review of its certification to move quickly. She did not address the question of the company's continued promotion of its products as organic.
Organigram and another licensed medical marijuana producer, Toronto-based Mettrum, issued voluntary recalls following the discovery of low levels of prohibited chemicals.
The recalls affect nearly 25,000 customers. Late Tuesday, Health Canada announced it will begin randomly testing medical marijuana products to make sure only authorized pesticides are used.
In an email, Health Canada said Organigram's recall affected 3,895 clients, and involved 392 kilograms of dried marijuana and 33 litres of cannabis oil.