‘No great panic’ on organic compliance

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic farming, European union

This story has been updated from the original published at 1400 CET, which erroneously stated that compliance was needed on labelling aspects of the new regulation by January 2009. FoodNavigator.com apologises for the confusion.

The European Commission has officially said that the new EU organic logo will not have to used on pre-packed food by the original deadline of January 1 2009 – and while the regulation does come into force on that date, there is ‘no great panic’ for manufacturers to comply with other labelling requirements as they do not need to be changed until 2012.

UK certifier Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) explained that products must comply with the EU regulation (834/2007) in terms of their ingredients and processing by next year, but the labels do not have to be changed until 2012.

Indeed, Defra (the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) has signaled that it is not just a matter of companies using up existing supplies – they can re-order existing approved designs, as long as the new requirements are met by 2012.

Richard Jacobs, chief executive of leading UK certifier, Organic Farmers & Growers, said: "It's pleasing to be able to say that there is no need for panic among processors at this stage. We are working to make all of our licensees aware of the changing requirements and the time frame within which they will have to comply.”

2012 deadline

By 2012, pre-packaged organic produce will have to show its origin either as 'EU', 'Non-EU' or 'EU/Non-EU'. Jacobs said: “We're still not sure that having 'EU', 'Non-EU' or 'EU/Non-EU' on the label is much use to anyone, but that's what the regulation says so we will ensure our licensees don't fall foul of the requirements come 2012."

Labels will also have to bear the number of the certifier – although according to OF&G this has always been the case. The number may or may not be accompanied by the certifier’s logo. EU logo kerfuffle

An amendment to the regulation, published in the Official Journal of the European Union today, comes as no surprise to stakeholders in the organic sector. The previously proposed ‘Bio’ label was withdrawn in April, after German supermarket Aldi raised concerns about its similarity to its own green logo.

Jacobs told FoodNavigator.com in April that the logo had clearly been withdrawn in a "confused kerfuffle".

The OR&G had told several processors to change their packaging, some of whom have already started to work on new print labels, he said.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has also voiced its concern on its website, stating that the postponement will cause "serious problems",​ as many labels would have to be changed again.

Today’s journal publication officially postpones the compulsory use of a new logo until such time as a new, appropriate logo can be created and implemented.

“It is important for the perception of consumers to ensure an informative labelling with a distinctive and appealing Community logo, which symbolizes organic production and clearly identifies the products,”​ says the journal text.

“The design of such a Community logo requires a certain time period to be developed and to be made known to the public.”

No timescale has been given for the new logo’s use to become compulsory; however UK organic certifier The Soil Association has said it expects the new logo to be mandatory by July 2010. The design is being put out for tender again.

One thing is for sure, however: the word ‘Bio’ will not appear. While Bio is recognised in languages of mainland Europe as meaning ‘organic’, in UK English is more closely associated with washing powder.

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