Notice to the Canadian organic industry and the for CFIA accredited Certification Bodies (CBs) regarding certification of products that can be marketed for various purposes

To: All regulated parties under the Canada Organic Regime (COR)

Date: January 3, 2023

This notice provides guidance to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) accredited Certification Bodies (CBs) and COR operators on how certain products meet the requirements for certification under the Canada Organic Regime (COR).

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), any food, seed, or animal feed that is labelled organic is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Commodities such as cannabis plants and their cultivation, cosmetics, pet food, and natural health products are outside the scope of the Canada Organic Regime (COR) overseen by the CFIA. Products that are excluded from the scope cannot be certified under the COR and cannot bear the Canada Organic Logo.

Some products (for example, essential oils, oils such as coconut oil) can be labelled and marketed as being a food, a cosmetic, or a Natural Health Product (NHP). In these instances, only foods (intended for human consumption), and specifically only foods that meet the following criteria, are permitted to be certified organic under the COR:

  • safe for human consumptionFootnote 1
  • food grade; and
  • each product unit is clearly labelled, represented and marketed as only food

As part of the certification process an operator is responsible for providing adequate evidence their product is a food prior to it being eligible for certification as organic under the COR. The operator may consult Health Canada's product classification as food criteriaFootnote 2 for guidance:

  • product format
  • product composition
  • representation
  • public perception
  • history of use; and
  • any other relevant information

For complex products or where consensus is not reached between the operator and the CB, the operator/manufacturer may request Health Canada's Food Directorate to provide a formal classification recommendationFootnote 3 to confirm whether the product is a food.

When requested by a CFIA accredited CB, an operator is responsible for providing adequate evidence their product is safe for human consumption and classified as food in order to obtain or maintain certification as organic under the COR. Inadequate evidence may require the CB to take a certification decision and refuse to certify the product as organic under the COR.

Once the determination has been made the product is a food, and is safe for human consumption, the operator must ensure the product unit itself is clearly labelled, represented and marketed as only foodFootnote 4. Operators who make ambiguous labelling or marketing claims indicating that a product unit is or could also be represented as a cosmetic or NHP (for example, a product that is represented and intended for ad libitum consumption with a food purpose including to provide nourishment, satisfy hunger/thirst, and/or a desire for taste, texture or flavor, but that also includes information inconsistent with food use, such as directions for topical use for any purpose whatsoever), are not permitted.

The operator is responsible for ensuring labelling, claims and marketing in all its forms (for example, advertisements, websites, social media marketing, etc.) are uniform in representing a specific product unit as only a foodFootnote 5. The CB is responsible for ensuring that all certified products are labelled in accordance with the SFCR and properly reference the COR.

Additional information