New Farmers: Here’s What You Need to Know About Organic Marketing in BC

Posted by Michalina Hunter on July 26, 2019

Organic_Produce

Have you checked your website and packaging to ensure it’s aligned with the new Organic Certification Regulation?

A new Organic Certification Regulation came into effect in BC on September 1, 2018. The term “organic” is now a protected label within BC. 

This means producers and processors must have organic certification from an accredited certification body if they want to make any sort of organic claim on a product, including “grown following organic principles”, or “made with organic ingredients”. Claims such as “uncertified organic” or “more than organic” are not permitted.

Greater clarity around what organic means is something consumers in B.C. have been requesting, and the new Organic Certification Regulation will significantly contribute to promoting and protecting consumer confidence in B.C. organic products.

Leading Up To the Policy Change

BC has had a voluntary organic program since 1993, meaning operators could get organic certification but were not required to have it to make an organic claim. In 2009, the Federal Government adopted Organic Certification for any organic products crossing provincial or international borders. Other provinces, such as Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Alberta have since adopted similar regulation that protects the use of the term organic for products produced, processed, and marketed within provincial boundaries.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture announced this regulation in 2015, and provided three years for the sector to transition in order to come into compliance. During this time, the BC Ministry of Agriculture worked closely with the Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) on education and outreach about organics and the new regulation, and to provide transition supports, to the sector.

What does this mean for Producers and Processors in BC?

The new regulation means that organic producers, processors, and others in the supply chain who use the ‘organic” protected label are expected to be able to provide proof of up-to-date certification upon request by a Ministry of Agriculture enforcement officer. Violations under the regulation will result in legal repercussions that could include tickets being issued ($350 fine) or court prosecutions against the seller.

What if I am in the process of transitioning to organic?

Transitioning farms or “farms in conversion to organic” selling all their products within BC may identify their products as “transitional organic” or “in conversion to organic” or other similar language on all marketing materials including websites signs and labels. But they cannot refer to their operation or transitional products as “organic”, “organically grown”, “organically raised”, or “organically produced”.

Examples of Organic Claims that are not permitted unless the product is Certified Organic:

Grown Following Organic Principles

Any claims related to following organic practices or principles require organic certification.

Uncertified Organic

Any claims pertaining to uncertified organic or non-certified organic are not permitted under the BC Organic Regulation.

Transitional Organic

Any claims pertaining to transitional organic can only be made by operators who are in the three year organic transition process.

More than Organic

Any claims pertaining to a product being better or more than organic require organic certification.

Made With

Any claims pertaining to a product being made with organic or certified organic ingredients requires certification. The only reference to organic ingredients that can be made by uncertified processors is in the ingredient list (e.g. Ingredients: Organic flour, organic raisins, salt) provided the processor has obtained proof that those ingredients have been certified. Ingredient lists must follow all CFIA regulations including font, location, and legibility requirements. The word organic cannot be included anywhere else on the labelling of the product and the ingredient list cannot be used in an inappropriate location (ie. putting in on your market banner).

More Information

You can find more information on the new regulation on the Organic Food and Beverage Policies page of the BC Ministry of Agriculture website. This webpage includes a “Guidelines for B.C.’s Organic Certification Regulation” document that provides specific examples of what activities organic certification is and is not required for.

How can I contribute to the strength of the B.C. Organic sector?

BC’s Organic Certification Regulation is enforced on a complaint basis so if you know of a business who is marketing their agricultural products using the organic label, and who does not have certification, please let AgriServiceBC know.

AgriService BC can be reached by phone (1-888-221-7141) or email: AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca.

All complaints are strictly confidential and no personal details will ever be shared with the party in question or anyone beyond the enforcement team. Contact details are requested when lodging a complaint so that the enforcement team can follow up and provide details on the outcome of the file.

COABC recently published an article on how to lodge complaint in their April 2019 ENews.

Questions?

Any questions or concerns about filing complaints or the Organic Certification Regulation in general can be directed to the BC Ministry of Agriculture’s Organic Industry Specialist, Karina Sakalauskas at Karina.Sakalauskas@gov.bc.ca or 604 556-3148.

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