Canada-wide organic food standards kick in

New rules compelling organic food producers to comply with countrywide certification standards went in to effect Tuesday.
Food products advertised as organic must now have at least 95 per cent organic content in order to comply with new CFIA regulations. ((Troy Fleece/Canadian Press))

New rules compelling organic food producers to comply with Canada-wide certification standards went into effect Tuesday.

The new regulations, mandated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, cover any organic food product — including fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat and processed food.

The following substances or techniques are among those forbidden in either the production or handling stages of products that bear the Canada Organic label:

  • All materials and products produced from genetic engineering.
  • Synthetic pesticides, wood preservatives or other pesticides, except as specified in CAN/CGSB-32.31.
  • Fertilizer or composted plant and animal material that contains a prohibited substance.
  • Sewage sludge used as a soil amendment.
  • Synthetic growth regulators.

Only products that have at least 95 per cent organic content are allowed to be advertised as organic, organically grown, organically raised, organically produced, or any other similar labels or abbreviations.

Producers can still label individual products as organic on the ingredient list if they comply with the CFIA standards. Producers can also opt to stamp their products with a "Canada Organic" logo that indicates to customers that the product has been certified by the CFIA.

All produce will have to be completely organic to be stamped with the logo, while products with multiple ingredients must have 95 per cent organic content. Products that do not qualify to use the logo but have over 70 per cent organic content must indicate the percentage of its organic ingredients.

Farmers who want their produce to carry the new "Canada Organic" label have to apply in writing for certification. The application must include:

  • The name of the agricultural product.
  • The substances used in its production.
  • The manner in which those substances are used.
Organic products can be stamped with this logo after receiving CFIA approval. (CBC)

Certification applies to U.S. imports

The logo will also be used on USDA-certified organic products imported from the United States.

Between 70 and 80 per cent of all organic products available in Canada are imported primarily from the U.S., according to government figures.

Under a June 17 agreement with the United States, the CFIA will consider the USDA certification equivalent to its own, and vice versa.

Accordingly, products that have been certified organic in the U.S. will bear both the CFIA stamp and the USDA logo.

Until now, organic producers in Canada only had to engage in voluntary compliance with national standards. Quebec and British Columbia were the only two provinces to have mandatory regulations in place covering organic produce.

There had also been no consistent standards governing what could be labeled organic — two different brands of the same food product could potentially have had very different levels of organic ingredients.