Chemical residues and organic production

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) tests both non-organic and organic foods for chemical residues and contaminants as part of the National Chemical Residues Monitoring Program. Health Canada approves pesticide uses and conditions of use, and establishes Maximum residue limits.

Any non-compliance with the maximum residue limits where there is a potential health risk is referred to Health Canada. If necessary, the CFIA can recall the product from the marketplace.

What chemical substances can be used under the Canada Organic Regime?

The only approved chemical substances are outlined in the national standard Organic production systems – Permitted substances lists (CAN/CGSB-32.311-2015)

How are substance contamination issues investigated under the Canada Organic Regime?

Potential non-compliances that are not identified as a health risk are investigated by the organic operator's certification body and reported back to the CFIA. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the operator's organic certification may be suspended. The approach taken by the certification body will vary according to the amount of residue:

  • If levels are 5 per cent or less than the maximum residue limit, the certification body will inform the operator and follow up at the next scheduled inspection.
  • If levels are more than 5 per cent of the maximum residue limit, the certification body will investigate to find the source of contamination as quickly as possible.

The certification body determines the corrective measures that the operator must implement and reports the outcome back to the CFIA.

Can organic products be unintentionally contaminated with substances not authorized under the Canada Organic Regime?

It is possible for products produced in accordance with Canada Organic Regime to unintentionally come into contact with substances not approved for organic production, such as synthetic pesticides that drift over from neighbouring fields. The Canadian Organic Standards are designed to mitigate this cross-contamination and keep any unintentional residues at the lowest possible levels.

What enforcement options are available if an organic operator uses a substance not authorized under the Canada Organic Regime?

If an organic operator is found to be using substances not permitted by the Canadian Organic Standards, the certification body can suspend or cancel product certification so that the operator can no longer sell products labelled as organic.

How long does an organic operator have to address non-compliances identified by a certification body?

Depending on the non-compliance, the timeframe to implement a corrective measure can be up to 90 days. If the corrective measure is not implemented within the required timeframe then the operator's organic certification may be suspended. Following a suspension, if the corrective measures are not implemented within 30 days then the operator's organic certification is cancelled.