What are the prospects for organic food and drink?
Sales of organic products in the UK fell by 1.5% in 2012 to £1.64 billion. Sales through box schemes, specialist retailers home delivery and online retailers grew by 0.7% to £480.6 million. Organic shoppers are increasingly choosing the convenience and variety offered by home delivery and specialist shops over the inconvenience and frustration of finding more limited ranges at many supermarkets. Supermarkets accounted for 70.7% of total UK organic sales in the calendar year 2012 (down from 75.3% in 2004). Sales of organic brands are +2.2% year-on-year but supermarket own-label organic sales declined by 11.2%. Top reasons for consumers buying organic are Healthy Eating (55%), Avoiding Pesticides (53%), Green issues (44%) and Better Taste (35%)
What are the laws covering the supply of organic products ?
In the EU legislation covers 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). In 2006-7 the Regulation 2092/91 underwent a review, which addressed the presence of Genetically Modified materials in organic food and the role of private organic certifying bodies. The European Commission adopted a new EU Organic Regulation 834/2007 in June 2007. The main changes are:
- Description of organic objectives and principles, for the first time
- Scope extended to cover aquaculture, wine, seaweed,yeast
- Procedure for approving new substances as organic
- Principles for food and feed processing
- Risk-based inspection criteria
- More flexible import criteria
- Labelling – 70% limit removed
- GMOs permitted at up to 0.9% (although the Soil Association and Organic Farmers & Growers are staying with an upper limit of 0.1% GM)
The new regulation came into effect in January 2009 , A mandatory EU logo was implemented through regulation 271/2010, published March 2010.
How is the law policed ?
The Organic Products Regulation requires that anyone who wishes to produce organic food must first register with a Certification Body. In the UK there are currently 8 such bodies, the best known are the Soil Association (Certification Code GB-ORG-05) and Organic Farmers & Growers (GB-ORG-02 ).
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.
The Certification Bodies are in turn policed by ACOS (the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards), through Defra. The Organic Products Regulation is enforced by Trading Standards Officers. All other legislation that applies to non-organic food also applies to organic food production.
What are the stages to becoming a Certified Organic Processor ?
- Fill out the initial application form supplied by the Certification Body. Note that on the initial application it is necessary to list the recipes of the anticipated launch range of products. It is relatively straightforward to make changes and add additional products at a later date.
- 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).
- The inspector submits a report to the Certification Committee of the Certification Body. If the report is approved a certificate is issued: the operation can then begin supplying organic products and use the symbol of the Certification Body on-pack. Note that it is illegal to produce organic food and drink without first going through this procedure.
- The Certification Body carries out an annual inspection of premises, systems and production records to ensure that all of these procedures are followed.
Do products have to be totally organic ?
Under the new EU organic legislation the old Special Emphasis category has been discontinued. This means that products labelled as organic must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients by weight.
The Regulation specifies 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 for a limited period.
- Some ingredients need not be organic, such as water
- The use of artificial or irradiated ingredients is specifically prohibited in organic foo