What Does Certified Organic Mean?
Certification is the process used to ensure that organic products are in line with the Canadian Organic Stalogobiocanadargbpressendards (COS). Canada’s Organic Products Regulations legally require organic products to be certified according to the COS if they are traded across provincial or international borders or use the Canada Organic Logo.
Organic certification is a system that helps ensure the integrity of organic products from field to table. It is a minimum benchmark that determines the basic requirements for organic food production systems. In Ontario and Canada, the certification of organic farms is carried out by third party certification bodies which have been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
It takes a producer up to three years to transition to the production and sale of certified organic products. During the transition phase, products can still be sold, but not as certified organic. If producers can prove that no prohibited substances have been used on the property in the last three years, it can take a minimum of 15 months to achieve certification.
How to Become a Certified Organic Operator in Ontario
1) Get to know the 2015 Canadian Organic Standards:
The Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards document outlines the processing and agricultural processes and guidelines that must be followed to be eligible for organic certification. The Permitted Substances List defines the inputs, cleaners, ingredients and aids that can and cannot be used in organic agriculture or processing.
2) Select a Certification Body:
Certification Bodies provide certification services, information, and support during transition. Contacting CBs will give you more of an idea of what you need to do in order to become certified. A complete list of approved certification bodies in Ontario is available here.
Once you have contacted a certification body, you will be required to fill out an Organic Production Plan, a field history sheet and provide a field map. The paper work will differ depending on the type of business you run (ie. farm, processing plant, etc.). After an inspector visits your facilities and the required paper work is filled out, a report will be completed and reviewed by the certification body’s head office. Once reviewed, further steps will be provided for what you must do to meet standard requirements.
2) Source organic inputs:
You may need to change suppliers for certain items to ensure the products you are using contain only the ingredients on the Permitted Substances List. Call around and talk to peers who have successfully transitioned to find what you need. Certification bodies may also be able to provide support in sourcing inputs.
4) Join OCO
OCO is the trade association for Organic growers, producers, processors and retailers in Ontario. Become a member to ensure that your views on issues facing Ontario’s Organic Sector are heard.