Organic Articles: International Food Ingredients, September 2000

The Organic Consultancy

Going Organic: An Introduction For Food Processors and Ingredient Suppliers

by Simon Wright

This article originally appeared in the September / October 2000 edition of International Food Ingredients and is reproduced by kind permission of the Editor, whose contact details are:

Market background
Organic food in the UK currently accounts for about 2% of all food sales, in Germany around 2.5% of food sales. These are overall figures – individual product sectors are performing better. For example one UK supermarket estimates that 15% of all fresh fruit and vegetables sold through their stores are organic: for baby food the figure is nearer 50%. The UK organic market sector is currently experiencing year-on-year growth of 40%, but compared to other countries in Europe there is a long way to go: in Austria organic food can account for 9% of some sectors whilst in Denmark 13% of food sold in certain markets is organic. In the UK at least 70% of all organic food sold is imported.

Legislation of organic products in the EU
One of the reasons that supermarkets throughout Europe are so strongly pro-organic is the introduction of legislation covering all aspects of organic food and drink production. Initially this took the form of EU Regulation 2092/91 (1991), which was translated into national legislation as the UK Organic Products Regulation (1992). This legislation lays down in detail how organic food must be produced, processed and packaged to qualify for the description ‘organic’. In August 1999 EC regulation 1804/1999 was published which extends the initial EU organic regulations to cover livestock production (meat, eggs, poultry and dairy production).

Policing the organic legislation
EU organic regulations require that anyone who wishes to produce organic food must first register with a Certification Body. In the UK there are eight such bodies, of whom the biggest and best known is the Soil Association. The Certification Body is responsible for ensuring that anyone who wants to produce organic food understands the legislation and has the necessary procedures and systems in place.

In the UK each Certification Body is in turn policed by UKROFS, the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards and part of MAFF. All other legislation that applies to non-organic food also applies to organic food production. Every country in the EU has its own individual equivalent of UKROFS. These bodies are also responsible for making sure that products imported into the EU reach organic standards comparable to those within the EU.

The four stages to becoming a certified organic processor

  1. Fill out the initial application form supplied by the Certification Body. Note that in most cases on the initial application it is necessary to list the recipes of the anticipated launch range of products.
  2. The Certification Body send an inspector to inspect the manufacturing premises. In an operation where both organic and non-organic products are manufactured the major point of concern is that there is no contamination from non-organic to organic. All systems and physical procedures need to be designed to achieve separation by space (production lines dedicated to organic production) or time (organic production following a full clean-down).
  3. The inspector submits a report to the Certification Committee of the Certification Body. If the report is approved the Certification Body issue a Certificate and the operation can then begin supplying organic products and use the symbol of the Certification Body on product packaging, literature, etc. Note that it is illegal to produce organic food and drink without first going through this procedure.
  4. The Certification Body carries out an annual inspection of premises, systems and production records to ensure that all of these procedures are followed.

Organic products containing non-organic ingredients
The EU Organic Regulations divide organic multi-ingredient foods and drinks into two categories depending on the proportion of organic ingredients present:

Category 1. Organic
Product contains a minimum of 95% organic ingredients by weight. Product can be labelled ‘Organic’ eg Organic Cornflakes

Category 2. Special Emphasis
Product contains 70 – 95% organic ingredients by weight. Product can be labelled ‘Made with Organic Ingredients’ eg Tomato Ketchup made with Organic Tomatoes

NB The EU organic regulations specify the following:

  • Only certain non-organic ingredients can be used and these are specified in Annex VI. If a particular ingredient is not available in organic form it is possible to apply for Derogation to use the non-organic version.
  • Some ingredients need not be organic eg water, yeast and salt
  • The use of irradiated or Genetically Modified ingredients is specifically prohibited in organic food

Further Information

  • For further information about organic food processing and the activities of The Organic Consultancy visit or email Simon Wright on
  • A second edition of The Handbook of Organic Food Processing and Production edited by Simon Wright and Diane McCrea is to be published by Blackwells this autumn (
  • Some organic ingredient supply companies are beginning to offer a substantial internet presence. Good sites to visit are:

Trade Organex
Tradin BV
Organic Trade
Community Foods