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Canada Organic Regime operating manual
Part C Certification of organic product and CB requirements

C.1 Objective

This section provides guidance on the certification process including application for certification, evaluation, decision on certification and continuation of the certification under the Canada Organic Regime (COR). It also provides requirements on the CB. The CVB shall verify how the CB meets these requirements during every initial, surveillance or reassessment audit conducted by the CVB.

C.2 Procedures for certification under COR

C.2.1 Application for initial certification

C.2.1.1 The CFIA accredited CB shall ensure that person seeking certification of their products or packaging and labelling activities make an application as defined by the CB, in accordance with Division 4 of part 13 of the Safe Food for Canadian Regulations (SFCR).

C.2.1.2 The CB shall require that the applicant provide all the relevant documents and information deemed essential to the assessment as described in subsection 344(2) of the SFCR. In addition, the application shall include the name(s) of CBs to which prior applications for certification were submitted by the applicant within the previous years (under COR or other schemes such as USDA NOP, EU, JAS etc.), including all details pertaining to processing the application, and the resulting decision.

C.2.1.3 The CB shall ensure that the applicant pays the fees for certification according to the CB's contract for services and in accordance with the CB's fee schedule.

C.2.1.4 The CB shall verify whether the applicant holds other types of certifications - packaging and labelling certificate and/or attestation of compliance.

C.2.1.5 The CB shall verify that the applicant does not hold a valid Canadian Organic Standards certificate for an identical/same product, issued by another CFIA accredited CB and if the product is certified as organic under another organic system (such as USDA NOP, EU, JAS etc.).

C.2.1.6 The CB shall verify the submitted documentation for completeness and to determine if it has the competence and capacity to perform the certification activity.

C.2.2 Application evaluation

C.2.2.1 The CB shall document its procedure for its evaluation activities. The CB shall evaluate the application against the requirements set out in CAN/CGSB-32.310, CAN/CGSB-32.311 and CAN/CGSB-32.312 as applicable to the nature of the product and production system.

C.2.2.2 The CB shall verify that the substances and the materials used in the production of organic products comply with CAN/CGSB 32.311 and CAN/CGSB-32.312 as applicable to the nature of the product and production system. The CB must maintain a procedure and documentation to support its determination about the status of input compliance.

C.2.2.3 The CB can determine input compliance with CAN/CGSB 32.311 or CAN/CGSB-32.312 as applicable to the nature of the product and production system by contacting the supplier/formulator/manufacturer to obtain full disclosure of the ingredients in the input material and the processes used to produce the ingredients and the input material.

C.2.2.4 The CB may consult with another CFIA accredited CB that has already evaluated a specified input material and, accept that CB's assessment of the input's compliance with CAN/CGSB 32.311 or CAN/CGSB-32.312.

C.2.2.5 The CB may consult with a third party organisation that is accredited under ISO 17065 to conduct input evaluation.

C.2.2.6 The CB shall take responsibility for all input evaluations including those activities outsourced to a third party.

C.2.2.7 The CB shall periodically confirm that input product formulations and processes have not changed. This shall generally be annually, but where a longer interval can be justified, must be at least once every 5 years.

C.2.2.8 The CB shall file a complaint to the CVB or directly to the CFIA if the CB has evidence that another CB has approved an ineligible input. If a CB becomes aware that another CB has rejected an input that they have accepted, the first CB can also submit a complaint.

  • C. The CBs and CVB(s) shall come to collective decision on the status of the input within 60 working days. The CVBs may consult technical experts with knowledge in inputs in order to reach an unbiased decision. Any costs/fees associated with this would be the responsibility of the complaining CB(s) if the complaint is found to be unfounded and by the CB(s) that improperly approved the input if the complaint is upheld. In case the CVBs and CBs cannot reach an agreement they can file a complaint with the CFIA.

C.2.2.9 The CB shall schedule an on-site inspection of the applicant to determine compliance with CAN/CGSB-32.310, CAN/CGSB-32.311 and/or CAN/CGSB-32.312, as applicable to the nature of the product and production system.

C.2.2.10 The timing of the on-site inspection shall take place during the production season in cases involving producer operations. This period begins as soon as the operations subject to inspection (seeding, tapping, etc.) begin and ends with the packaging or placing in containers for storage of products to be certified.

C.2.2.11 In cases involving processing operations, on-site inspections may be carried out any time during the year. On the other hand, for separated production (that is, when both certifiable and non-certifiable products are manufactured at the same facility), the inspection shall be carried out at the time when the products that are targeted for certification are being processed. If the CB determines it is not possible to conduct the inspection while organic product is being processed, the CB shall record the reason(s) supporting this determination. The CB shall then arrange for the inspection to be conducted at a time when the facilities and activities that demonstrate compliance or capacity to comply can be assessed.

C.2.2.12 The CB shall ensure that the applicant is contacted to arrange the logistics of the on-site inspection.

C 2.2.13 The CB shall record the VO selected to conduct on-site inspection. It is recommended that verification officers not be scheduled to inspect the same operation for more than 3 consecutive years. If there are extenuating circumstances and the VO inspects the same operation for more than 3 consecutive years, the justification must be recorded.

C.2.2.14 The CB shall allow the applicant to refuse the selected VO in case of conflict of interest.

C.2.2.15 The CB shall ensure that the assigned VO conducts an opening meeting with a representative of the applicant to confirm the inspection objectives, scope and criteria.

C.2.2.16 The CB shall ensure that all production and processing operations (for example, fields, crops, plants, livestock, buildings, facilities and vehicles), including packaging and labelling and any subcontracted activities upon which an operator relies to produce and/or prepare each product included within its application are inspected by the assigned VO who will verify that the standards are fully applied and correspond to the submitted production or preparation specifications.

C.2.2.17 The CB shall ensure that the land, premises and equipment not included in the scope of certification are identified and included in the application. The VO must verify the list is complete and correct including, at a minimum, the following: crop areas or harvesting zones; harvest storage locations; preparation, processing and packaging sites, a complete list of phytosanitary products used by the operator. Further, the VOs must verify the operator maintains a record of application dates and locations for phytosanitary products.

C.2.2.18 The CB shall verify that prohibited substances have not been, and are not being, applied to the operation.

C.2.2.19 The CB shall ensure that the VO conducts a review of record keeping, to verify that the organic plan submitted to the CB accurately reflects the operation and is in compliance with CAN/CGSB-32.310 or CAN/CGSB-32.312 as applicable to the operation and nature of production. Records to be verified shall include records related to production (for example, inventory, sales, purchases, organic certificates for each ingredient received) and to management (for example, accounting, complaints); as well as appropriate product packaging and labelling.

C.2.2.20 The CB shall ensure that the VO identifies and inspects areas of risk (for example, potential contamination from neighbouring farm, flooding, undeclared split production).

C.2.2.21 The CB shall ensure that for producers, the VO obtains an estimate of the potential yield for the coming year, as well as an audit of the balance in the quantities produced and sold over the previous period, and including amounts still in inventory during this same period.

C.2.2.22 The CB shall ensure that for applicants performing operations related to food preparation (processing and/or packaging), the VO calculates the input/output balance for acquired commodities and for the corresponding inputs included in the products sold and on inventory. The calculation sample shall include more than 1 run of the product and at least 1 prominent commodity. Where there is no organic product available during first inspection, the operator's system for input/output shall be verified.

C.2.2.23 The VO shall strive to review different commodity at each inspection, if applicable. However, if justified by the VO, additional commodity(ies) may be included in this calculation. This justification shall be recorded in the inspection report.

C.2.2.24 As per 4.4 of CAN/CGSB 32.310, the CB shall ensure that the VO performs products/ingredients trace back audits to verify that the integrity of the organic product is maintained. Products and/or their ingredient components must be traceable to the operators own production locations (fields/plots) or suppliers as applicable to the product and nature of the operation. Trace back audits will be checked based on conventional products to ensure the operator has established an effective traceability system where there is no organic product available during first inspection.

C.2.2.25 The CB shall ensure that the VO interviews people knowledgeable within the operation at the time of inspection.

C.2.2.26 The CB shall ensure that at the end of the visit the VO conducts a closing meeting to:

  • inform the operator's representative of inspection results as well as findings made concerning the compliance with certification requirements, without any corrective action request from the VO
  • provide opportunity for the operator to confirm the accuracy of information collected during the inspection, by signing the exit report (paper copy or electronic copy)
  • provide a summary of this review in writing to the operator

C.2.2.27 The VO shall submit to the CB a report mentioning verification results and findings as to the conformity with all certification requirements, and including the following data as a minimum:

  • date, time and duration of inspection
  • names of interviewees (main representatives involved with the inspection)
  • identification of land and premises visited on the production/handling site
  • types of documentation audits performed (in/out balance sheet, yields/sales, trace back exercise, label review etc.)
  • inspection results
  • list of findings identified by the VO

C.2.3 Review

C.2.3.1 The CB shall inform the operator of all NCs with reference to the applicable clause from the standard and shall require from the operator to respond to the NC report issued by the Certification Body within 30 working days of its receipt. The response shall either provide evidence of completion of corrective action(s) taken to address each NC or present a plan with milestones as to how each NC will be addressed. This plan shall include a completion date not exceeding 90 working days from receipt of the NCs. The CB shall accept times greater than those stated for the closure of a NC as long as they are justified and documented.

C.2.3.2 In the case where the operator requests and the CB grants a one-time extension (SFCR paragraph 349 (2) (b)), the period of extension may extend beyond 90 working days from receipt of the NCs as long as the times are justified and documented.

C.2.3.3 The CB shall ensure that corrective actions aiming to address all nonconformities have been implemented by the operator by conducting an on-site visit or other appropriate forms of verification.

C.2.3.4 The CB shall inform the applicant that at any point within the certification cycle, preceding the CB's decision, the applicant may request that the processing of its application be stopped. The applicant shall be informed that they are liable for the costs of services provided up to the time of withdrawal of its application. In such case, the CB shall not issue a decision regarding the products that were subject of the certification request.

C.2.4 Certification decision

C.2.4.1 If a CB has reason to believe that an applicant for initial certification has willfully made a false statement regarding its production system and operations related to the products included in the application, the CB may deny certification, without issuing a notification of noncompliance.

C.2.4.2 The CB shall issue a written notice of denial of certification to any applicant to whom it denies certification, either because operations resulting in the products included in the application are still noncompliant with requirements or simply because the applicant did not respond to the notification of noncompliance. This notice shall state the reason(s) for denial and the applicant's right to:

  • file an appeal of the denial with the CB
  • reapply for certification to any accredited CB, including the one who denied certification

C.2.4.3 The decision to certify a product and/or packaging and labelling activities shall be taken if the CB determines that all procedures and activities contained in the organic plan are in compliance with the SFCR requirements and that the applicant is able to operate in accordance with its plan and after the correction of all nonconformities. This decision is valid until the results of the next annual evaluation are known and a new decision is made or unless the CB is made aware of information to cause the CB to act (for example, suspension or cancellation). This information can come from an external source or from the CB's own efforts.

C.2.4.4 The CB shall provide the applicant with a certificate that confirms the certification of the organic product and/or certification of packaging and labelling activities of the organic product. In accordance with ISO 17065 7.7.1, these certificates shall include the following:

  • The wording "Pursuant to part 13 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)…"
  • The name, address, and contact information of the certification body (as appears on the CFIA web site)
  • Certification number (as issued by the CB, it will vary by CB )
  • The name and address of the holder of the certificate, whereby the holder is the legal name of the person(s) who produced/processed/packaged/labelled/traded the product and that had applied for certification. A "person" means "an individual, a corporation, an association, or an organization recognized as a legal entity"
  • When applicable, the certificate or document should also include the name of the holder who commonly does business under, or the name which the holder is commonly known by in the marketplace. All other non-legal names/business names on the certificate in addition to the legal name shall be clearly referred to as "doing business as" or "DBA". The certificate cannot bear the names of multiple legal entities. A parent company and any of their subsidiary companies are separate legal entities
  • A list of the certified products, which shall be identified by their specific product name and any trademarks under which they are marketed. Product names on certificates should coincide with label/shipping bill/import-export documentation
  • in the case of a multi-ingredient food commodity, whether at least 70% of its contents are organic products or whether at least 95% of its contents are organic products
  • The standards under which each product or product type is certified (CAN/CGSB 32.310 or CAN/CGSB 32.312)
  • The wording "Certified in accordance with the terms of the U.S.-Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement" (when applicable)
  • The applicable type of certification:
    • Crop production
    • Livestock production
    • Livestock feed
    • Specialized production
      • apiculture
      • maple products
      • mushroom production
      • crops grown in structures or containers
      • wild crops
      • sprouts, shoots and microgreens
      • insects
    • Processed products (for example, processed agricultural and/or livestock products)
    • Aquaculture products including aquaponic products
    • Trade of organic products (for example, importer, exporter, distributor)
    • Group certification
  • the date on which the certification was initially granted
  • the date of last inspection
  • the date by which the operator shall submit application for subsequent annual inspection as per subsection 346 (1) of the SFCR
  • the location (address, town, province/state, country) of all production units covered by this certification ( includes but is not limited to: all production, processing, harvest, and storage sites). (not applicable for grower group members)
  • The following wording "This certification remains valid unless suspended or cancelled by the (INSERT THE NAME OF THE CB) pursuant to part 13 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)"
  • Date, name and signature of CB representative

The Organic Product Certificate will only be issued once the organic product meets the requirements of the Canadian organic standards. In case of first time applicants, if no organic product is available, the CB can issue a letter confirming that the applicant has an organic system plan in place for organic products as specified in the organic system plan. The letter must contain the following wording "This letter cannot be used for marketing organic products".

C.2.4.5 Packaging and labelling activities certificate shall include the period of validity, the type(s) of organic products to which the certification applies.

C.2.4.6 The certification of a product, once issued, shall remain valid unless suspended or cancelled by the CB according to the requirements of the SFCR.

C.2.4.7 The CB shall follow subsection 350(3) of the SFCR requirements for cancellation in the case of voluntary withdrawal by the operator.

C.2.5 Procedure for continuation of certification

C.2.5.1 The CB shall document the procedures to verify annually that the SFCR requirements for certification continue to be met by the holder of certificate.

C.2.5.2 The CB shall require the holder of the certificate to submit the information specified in subsection 346(1) of the SFCR once every 12-month period, which begins on the day on which the certificate is issued. The CB shall require the holder of the certificate to submit their intention to maintain certification in writing no later than the date that is 6 months prior to the end of that period and the completed recertification documentation in a time frame specified by the CB and as appropriate to the nature of the operation.

C.2.5.3 The CB shall proceed with an on-site inspection to verify compliance with the applicable requirements as outlined in C.2.2 when the holder of certificate submits all information requested by the CB. There shall be no more than 2 consecutive years without an inspection of the organic product being processed (applicable only for processed products).

C.2.5.4 The CB shall ensure that the VO verifies on-site that any changes in the organic standards and the CB requirements have been effectively implemented by the operator.

C.2.5.5 The CB shall ensure that the VO verifies on-site that previously submitted corrective actions have been, and remain, fully implemented.

C.2.5.6 The CB shall ensure that the onsite inspection/verification is completed prior to the end of the 12 month period from the day the certificate was granted as per SFCR subsection 346 (2).

C.2.5.7 The CB shall verify that all the requirements for certification are met resulting either in continuation of the certification or initiation of suspension and cancellation.

C.2.5.8 The CB shall make its certification decision for continued certification as outlined in C.2.4.

C.2.6 Additional inspections

C.2.6.1 In addition to the annual inspections the CB shall plan and conduct unannounced inspections representing 5% of the CB's clients to which CB grants certificates for products and/or packaging and labelling and/or attestation of compliance under the COR. Exceptions to the 5% rule are listed in the table below.

Table 7: Number of unannounced inspections to be performed based on the number of operators registered with the CB under COR
Number of operators registered with the CB under COR Number of unannounced inspections
1 to 4 1 unannounced inspection per
CB accreditation cycle
5 to 32 1 unannounced inspection per year
33 or more Unannounced inspections conducted as per section C 2.6.1 of the COR Operating manual

C.2.6.2 The CB shall document the procedure covering the frequency and selection criteria for these unannounced on-site inspections. In cases where it is not possible to conduct an unannounced inspection (for example, for reasons related to site access or any other factors supported by a justification), advance notice may be given providing that this notice period does not allow time to cover up noncompliances that might exist. In any case the notice shall be not more than 24 hours. The CB shall document the reasons for any advance notice.

C.2.6.3 Unannounced inspections shall be limited in scope and shall cover only certain aspects of the operation. Every year the operators for unannounced inspections shall be randomly selected based on risk, and/or as a result of a complaint or investigation. The CB may disclose to the operator the reason for the unannounced or additional inspection.

C.2.6.4 The CB shall consider the following examples when developing risk-based criteria for unannounced inspections (list is not exhaustive):

  • Type of operator (producer, processor, packager)
  • New or experienced operator (categories for number of years' experience can be used)
  • Size and complexity of operation (for example, total area under production, complexity of value chain)
  • Type and value of product (for example, short supply, high price, susceptibility to disease or pests, ratio of price to quality)
  • Number of parcels of land or animal units under transition
  • Local geography (for example, lay of land, buffer areas, water supply, presence of neighbours and types of neighbouring land uses, nearby spray operations)
  • Only organic, split operation or parallel production
  • Total quantity of products produced and/or processed
  • Rapid increase in production versus stable production levels
  • Compliance history (nonconformities in previous inspections)
  • Complaints received
  • Suspicion of fraud
  • Quality of information (information supplied in certification process)
  • Economic fraud risk (multiple contracted suppliers, group certification)
  • Detection of chemical residues or signs of prohibited substances
  • Irregularities in mass balance calculations and traceability records
  • Number of new suppliers
  • Number of changes to management team
  • Change in ownership
  • Brand names (number produced under the operation, processor not using own name)
  • Higher risk animal production systems

C.2.6.5 The CBs shall apply a checklist of risk based criteria when evaluating the risk to which the integrity of organic products can be compromised. The CB shall define individual scores that can be applied to each risk criteria. These scores should be added to calculate a total score for each operator. Based on the scores, the CB will determine which operators are selected for unannounced inspections.

C.2.6.6 In addition to the scheduled 5% unannounced inspections, the CB shall comply with any requests from the CFIA or the CVB to conduct additional inspections (announced or unannounced) when the compliance of the operation is in doubt or for other valid reasons.

C.2.7 Sampling and testing

C.2.7.1 The CBs shall develop sampling and testing procedure incorporating the following sampling criteria:

  • Type of product (for example, susceptibility to disease or pests or usually high uses of pesticides in conventional systems)
  • Local geography (for example, lay of land, buffer areas, water supply, presence of neighbours and types of neighbouring land uses, nearby spray operations)
  • Complaints or information previously received regarding the potential use of prohibited substances
  • Detection of chemical residues
  • Signs of prohibited substances

C.2.7.2 The CB shall ensure that the verification officers (VOs) are trained on how to sample, label, and store products under proper chain of custody until samples are submitted for testing.

C.2.7.3 The CB shall ensure that the VOs are provided with the proper sampling equipment at the time of the inspection as per specific sampling protocols provided by the laboratory.

C.2.7.4 The CB should consider referring to Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) for information on recommended methods of sampling for the determination of chemical residues as guidance.

C.2.7.5 The CB shall be responsible for maintaining the chain of custody of samples prior to submission to the laboratories.

C.2.7.6 The CB shall have a legally binding contract with laboratory(s) that hold current accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025: 2017 - General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration of Laboratories, and for which the scope of accreditation allows for the testing of the specific substance in food.

C.2.7.7 CFIA accredited CBs must maintain records to demonstrate that they conduct chemical residue sampling and testing of their operators products and follow up on chemical residue results that were forwarded to them for action. CBs must consider the guidance document "Directive 14-01: Procedure for follow-up on positive chemical residue results in organic products" and "Chemical residues and organic production" when following up on any chemical residue positive result.

C.2.7.8 The CB shall require pre-harvest or post-harvest testing of any organic product to be sold, labelled or represented as being in compliance with the requirements of the CAN/CGSB-32.310, CAN/CGSB-32.311 and/or CAN/CGSB-32.312 as applicable to the nature of the product and production system when there is a reason to suspect that the organic product has come into contact with a prohibited substance, method or ingredient in the production and handling of organic products.

C.2.7.9 The CB may sample and test as part of an investigation of a complaint concerning the use of or contamination with prohibited substance. Intentional use of prohibited substances by an operator shall result in the CB initiating the suspension and cancellation process as per part 13 of the SFCR.

C.2.7.10 The CB shall investigate if there is suspicion that an organic product has been contaminated by or commingled with genetically engineered (GE) materials. The investigation may include sampling and testing for GE presence.

C.2.8 Suspension, cancellation and reinstatement

C.2.8.1 The CB shall suspend and cancel a certification as per part 13 of the SFCR.

C.2.8.2 The CB shall report to its CVB all suspensions, change of a CB by an operator, and cancellations it issues on the 25th of each month, in case such decisions are made, or shall be provided as defined by the CVB. All reports shall include the name of the holder of certificate, the date of issue and the reason for the action.

C.2.8.3 The CB shall not grant certification to an applicant who had its certification previously cancelled and whose name appears on the CFIA published list of cancelled organic certifications unless the applicant has submitted an application for certification to a CFIA accredited CB as per section C.2, and has completed the evaluation process and closed all the nonconformities.

C.2.8.4 The CB shall submit to the CFIA a request for removing the name of the holder of certificate from the list of cancelled holders of certificates posted on the CFIA web site.

C.2.8.5 The CB shall proceed with granting a certification after receiving conformation from the CFIA that the operator is removed from the CFIA list.

C.2.8.6 The Organic Production Systems: General Principles and Management Standards (CAN/CGSB-32.310) require that the Standard be fully applied on a production unit at least 12 months before the harvested product is considered organic for these food commodities (per 5.1.1 and 7.2.8). These 12 months must be under the oversight of a CFIA accredited certification body (CB).

C.2.8.7 A cancelled operator who wishes to be reinstated must apply as a new applicant as per section 344 of the SFCR. CFIA interprets the requirements as follows:

  • C. the production unit (the applicant) must be under CB oversight for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the harvest of a product in order for it to be covered by the organic certificate (issued by the CB at the end of the 12 months).
  • C. an applicant cannot market products harvested during or prior to the start of the 12 months of oversight as organic.
  • C. For the requirements of the standard to be met, the oversight is based on the time of harvest, and not the expected time of sale.

C.3 Timing of sale or distribution of certified product

C.3.1 When certification is requested, the CB shall ensure that the applicant does not offer for sale any product "represented as organic" or bearing the word organic or its derivatives until the applicant receives the certificate from the CB.

C.4 Complaint and appeal

C.4.1 The CB shall document procedures to ensure that it deals with the complaints and appeal by applicant, certificate holder or other party pertaining to certification in accordance with the requirements specified in ISO 17065.

C.4.2 The CB documented procedures shall deal with, as a minimum:

  • C.4.2.1 appeal related to certification decisions
  • C.4.2.2 complaints from holders of certificates regarding the CB's program application
  • C.4.2.3 complaints from outside persons or organizations about the CB's operation

C 4.3 The CB shall communicate the next steps to the certificate holder in case the holder is not satisfied with the CB appeal process. The certificate holder can submit a complaint against the CB to the CVB responsible for the oversight of the CB.

C.5 Issues regarding implementation of the standard

C.5.1 The CB shall notify all of its certificate holders of any amendments to the regulations or the standards within 2 months after their publication.

C.5.2 The CB shall allow a period of up to 12 months after the publication date of an amendment to CAN/CGSB-32.310, CAN/CGSB-32.311 and CAN/CGSB-32.312 for applicants to come into compliance with any changes to the requirements.

C 5.3 Some of the revisions in the standards may require more than 12 months to implement, such as barn renovations to comply with new flock sizes, exit spaces and natural lighting in poultry installations. When applicable, any period longer than 12 months is specified within the standards.

C 5.4 The CB shall update application documentation, training materials, certification procedures and checklists to reflect the most recent versions of the Canadian Organic Standards.

C.5.5 If an interpretation of an applicable standard is required by the CB or a certificate holder at any point during certification activities, it can be sought from the Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC).

C.5.6 It is likely that the need for interpretation requests to the SIC will occur during a certification cycle of a certificate holder by a CB. In such cases, where both parties agree there is need for interpretation or clarification and the interpretation request is submitted by the CB, the issue that is the subject of the request will be set aside by the CB (for example, the nonconformity will be placed on hold) until the response from the SIC is returned.

C.5.7 In these cases, between the time when the interpretation request to the SIC is submitted and the response from the committee returned, any certification work affected by the interpretation shall proceed as normal, up to the issuance of certification documents.

C.5.8 When the response from the SIC is received, the outstanding issue shall be revisited and appropriate actions taken by the CB or the operator or both, as required.

C.5.9 If changes are required by the certificate holder to comply with the interpretation of the SIC, the CB shall not suspend or withdraw any certification it has issued that is affected by this interpretation as long as the operator has made the required changes in a time frame that is no less than the time permitted for any other nonconformance issued by the CB.

C.5.10 In cases where the CB and the certificate holder do not agree that the issue needs an interpretation, the CB shall rely on part 1.4 of CAN/CGSB-32.310 or part 1.4 of CAN/CGSB-32.312 when interpreting the issue. The certificate holder is still able to make a complaint to the CVB about the CB and/or ask the SIC for an interpretation and request a reconsideration of the issue at a later date.

C.5.11 The CB shall adhere to the interpretations of the Canadian Organic Standards (CAN/CGSB 32.310, CAN/CGSB 32.311, and CAN/CGSB 32.312) provided by the SIC and considered official by the CFIA, to achieve uniform and consistent application of the rules to all operators through various CBs.

C.5.12 The CBs shall inform their certificate holders about these interpretations.

C.6 Use of licenses, certificates and marks of conformity

C.6.1 The CB shall ensure that all certified products are labelled in accordance with the SFCR.

C.6.2 The CB shall have procedures to monitor the holders of certificates using its certification mark and its name and marketing organic products to detect any improper reference to the Canada Organic Regime or fraudulent use of the CB name and certificates.

C.6.3 The CB shall have written rules authorizing the use of its mark (including the recognition of product labels on which it shall be displayed) and is responsible for delivering the organic certificates.

C.6.4 The CB shall have written procedures for dealing with abusive use, false statements regarding a product's certification or the incorrect use of its certification marks.

C.6.5 The CB shall have procedures ensuring that the holders of certificates do not allow its certification mark be used in any way likely to lead to confusion among consumers.

C.7 Obligations of the CB relative to certifications

C.7.1 The CB shall not issue a certificate for any multi-ingredient organic product unless it verifies that the organic ingredients used in the product formulation have been certified as organic in accordance with part 13 of the SFCR by a CFIA accredited CB or to the terms of an organic equivalence arrangement by a CB accredited under the existing organic equivalency arrangements.

C.7.2 When a subjective judgment is required to determine compliance, the CB shall document explanatory information, assuring consistent and uniform application of the requirements and certification decisions.

C.7.3 The CB shall ensure that when it identifies and assigns responsibilities and tasks to members of its staff, impartiality is not in jeopardy.

C.7.4 The CB shall identify the management (committee, group or person) which will have overall responsibility for undertaking monitoring, inspection and certification activities as defined within the accreditation criteria, including execution of inspection, controls, evaluation and certification.

C.7.5 The CB shall have a signed legally enforceable agreement with each certificate holder that specifies the rights and responsibilities relevant to its certification activities including information about the CB appeal process and provisions to cover liabilities in situations where there is a significant risk of being sued.

C.7.6 The CB shall define and document the competence of the personnel for each function in the certification process including the VOs. The CB shall ensure that its personnel has professional training and experience relevant to the COR, including specific training with respect to the Canadian organic standards and the certification requirements outlined in C.2.

C.7.7 The CB shall have a signed agreement with the VO to refuse any work that would create a conflict-of-interest situation with the enterprise that is applying for certification, either because of a family link, or because of a business relationship with the applicant during the 12 months preceding its application to the CB.

C.7.8 The CB shall assign personnel to perform each evaluation task as per ISO 17065.

C.7.9 The CB shall establish procedures for evaluating and monitoring the performance of the personnel including the VO which should at minimum include initial assessment of competence and annual performance review, and regular field evaluation of the VOs. The frequency of the field evaluation shall be defined and developed by the CB. The CB may consider the number of VO inspections, VO's experience, and quality of the inspection reports in developing the frequency requirements. The CB shall record the performance of the personnel including the VOs' monitoring.

C.7.10 The CB shall document the estimated duration of on-site inspection, taking into account the intensity of the production system, the production type, the company's size, the results of the previous verification, complaints received and parallel production.

C.7.11 The CB shall document the minimum requirements for any audit trail, in relations to traceability.

C.7.12 The CB shall document its sampling and testing requirements.

C.7.13 The CB shall document its deadlines for presentation of the VO report to the CB.

C.7.14 The CB shall have procedures to address cases when an operator does not renew a certification from a previous year to ensure that the CB shall formally notify this operator in a timely manner that its certification is cancelled.

C.7.15 The CB shall exchange any information deemed confidential with other CFIA accredited CBs and/or CFIA to verify the validity of information on a holder of certificate. Such exchange is still considered to be and shall be managed as confidential by the receiving party.

C.8 Records control by the CB and operator

C.8.1 The CB shall document procedures to ensure it maintains a record system that complies with the SFCR requirements.

C.8.2 The CB shall ensure that its records are to be kept for a minimum of 5 years. This requirement shall also be documented by the CB.

C.8.3 The CB shall ensure that the operator maintains records and relevant supporting documents concerning the inputs, production, preparation and handling of crops, livestock and organic products that are or are intended to be sold, labelled or otherwise represented as organic in accordance with the CAN/CGSB-32.310 or CAN/CGSB-32.312 for a minimum of 5 years.

C.8.4 The operator shall submit this information to the CB, the CVB or the CFIA upon request.

C.9 CB records

C.9.1 The CB shall maintain all data listed below and shall provide it to the CVB and the CFIA annually by the end of the calendar year for each operator granted certification. For those elements of this information provided via the internet, it is acceptable to provide the URL to this information instead. For those elements of this information not provided via the internet, that information shall still be provided annually by the CB and the CVB shall transfer it to the CFIA.

  • Legal (corporate) name of operator
  • Full address of the operator's head office including phone numbers and fax numbers
  • Type of operation (primary, processing or exporter)
  • Generic names of the products certified

C.9.2 The CB shall maintain records of all major changes that took place during the previous year and that have affected corporate structure and directors, the administrative structure, the main managers of the organization and members of the committees. It shall provide this information to the CVB or the CFIA upon request.

C.9.3 The CB shall maintain records of all modifications made to policies, internal procedures and regulations governing the organization and its certification system. It shall provide this information to the CVB and/or the CFIA upon request.

C.9.4 The CB shall maintain records of the following:

  • certificates newly issued, renewed, and withdrawn, listed by operator category under the COR
  • number of annual inspections, number of annual inspections by activity, number of unannounced inspections and number of unannounced inspections by activity
  • number of nonconformities issued
  • number of samples collected
  • number of complaints
  • number of attestations of compliance issued

C.9.5 The CB shall submit this information to the CVB or the CFIA upon request.

C.10 Requirements when an operator changes a CB under COR

C.10.1 Requirements on the operator

C.10.1.1 The operator who decides to change their current CB (sending) to a new CB (receiving) shall submit an application for certification as a new applicant, complete an application form prescribed by the new CB (receiving) and follow the application requirements as per C.2.1 of the COR Operating Manual.

C.10.1.2 The operator, including those who intend to become part of a grower group, shall notify their current CB of their intent to change the CB and shall request a "letter of good standing" (appendix G) to be sent to the new CB (receiving), confirming that all nonconformities (NCs) and any contract conditions (for example, outstanding fees) have been addressed. The current CB shall send this letter directly to the new CB. If necessary, the receiving CB can directly request additional information to the sending CB.

C.10.1.3 The operator shall maintain their current certification until the new certification process is complete and the new CB has issued documents confirming the certification of the operator's products as per subsection 345(2) of the SFCR.

C.10.1.4 The operator shall stop using their certificate issued from the sending CB after the new certification process is complete and the operator has received the new certificate.

C.10.1.5 The operator shall not use up existing supplies of labels which identify their previous CB on products they produce from the moment the operator receives the new certificate. New labels identifying the new CB must be used at once.

C 10.1.6 The operator may sell certified prepackaged products labelled with the name of the previous CB as long as these products were packaged before the CB change and an inventory list was provided to both CBs.

C.10.2 Requirements on the sending (current) CB

C.10.2.1 The sending (current) CB shall, upon request by the operator, send a letter of good standing to the new CB (receiving) confirming that all NCs and any contract conditions (for example, outstanding fees) have been addressed by the operator. A letter of good standing shall only be issued when an operator is in the process of changing CB and, when all NCs have been addressed by the operator.

C.10.2.2 The sending CB shall continue to monitor the operator's compliance with COR requirements and shall ensure that the operator resolves any outstanding NCs before the new certificate is issued by the new (receiving) CB.

C.10.2.3 The sending CB shall notify the operator that it terminates the certification agreement with the operator and will no longer monitor the compliance of this operator once the new CB confirms that a new certificate has been issued to the operator.

C.10.2.4 Upon receiving confirmation from the new CB that a new certificate has been issued to the operator, the sending CB shall require the operator to immediately stop the use of any labels or advertising which identify the sending CB on the operator's products.

C 10.2.5 The sending CB shall allow the operator to retain a copy of the current certificate only when the operator can demonstrate that previously certified products are still in inventory.

C 10.2.6 The sending CB shall report the cancellation in a monthly report to the CFIA as a "cancellation due to a CB change".

C.10.3 Requirements on the receiving (new) CB

C.10.3.1 The receiving CB shall require the operator to submit an application for certification as a new applicant, complete an application form prescribed by the new CB (receiving) and follow the application requirements as per C.2.1 of the COR Operating Manual.

C.10.3.2 The receiving CB shall request information on the name of the applicant's current (sending) CB.

C.10.3.3 The receiving CB shall review the information provided by the sending CB including the letter of good standing.

C.10.3.4 The receiving CB shall schedule and conduct an on-site inspection of the operator's facility as per C.2.3 of the COR operating manual prior to making a certification decision.

C.10.3.5 The receiving CB shall issue a new certificate only after the certification process is complete and the applicant has been determined to be in compliance with all the COR requirements. The initial date on the new certificate shall be the date on which the receiving CB issued the certificate.

C.10.3.6 The receiving CB shall inform the sending CB within 5 working days that the receiving CB has issued a new certificate to the operator.

C.11 Requirements when a CB issues attestation of compliance

C.11.1 Scope

As per part 13 of the SFCR, a CFIA accredited CB upon request shall issue a document referred to as an "attestation of compliance" to a person that conducts physical activities with respect to the organic product (for example, slaughtering where the meat is not packaged and labelled, storing, seed cleaning and other custom services for bulk organic products where the ownership of the products remains with the primary producer/processor) which is not yet in an impermeable package, with the exception of retail and transport.

With respect to transportation of organic products which are not packaged or labelled, the CBs must verify that the organic integrity of the product is maintained by reviewing an affidavit signed by the truck company or other methods.

In cases when a service provider does not hold an attestation of compliance, it is the responsibility of the certificate holder to ensure that these services/activities are conducted in accordance with the COR requirements. These activities have to be included in the certificate holder/applicant's organic system plan and be verified by the CB as part of the certificate holder/applicant's on-site inspection.

C.11.2 Procedure for issuing attestation of compliance under COR

C.11.2.1 The CB shall verify that the activities are being conducted in accordance with CAN/CGSB 32.310 or CAN/CGSB 32.312 to maintain the integrity of the organic product.

C.11.2.2 The CB shall follow the steps outlined under C.2 of the COR operating manual as applicable to the activity conducted. As a minimum the CB shall:

  • C. require the service provider to complete an application form
  • C. request an organic plan and relevant documents which demonstrate how the integrity of the organic product is maintained
  • C. verify compliance to CAN/CGSB 32.310 and CAN/CGSB 32.312 as applicable to the activity conducted
  • C. conduct an annual inspection at a time when organic product is being handled or according to C.2.2.11
  • C. conduct noncompliance follow-up according to C.2.3

C.11.2.3 The CFIA accredited CBs shall:

  • C. issue an "attestation of compliance" using the template included in the Appendix 1 of the COR Operating Manual, which will be valid for 12 months beginning on the day on which it is granted
  • C. suspend or cancel an "attestation of compliance" as required according to C.2.8

C.11.2.4 The CFIA accredited CBs shall accept an "attestation of compliance" issued by any CFIA accredited CB as meeting the SFCR requirements for maintenance of integrity and shall not require any further verification.

C.12 Requirements for grower group certification under COR

C.12.1 Requirements for grower group organizations

C.12.1.1 The grower group shall only seek certification with a CB accredited by CFIA under the COR that is accredited to certify grower groups.

C 12.1.2 The CVB shall assess the ability of the CB to perform the group certification and recommend it for accreditation to the CFIA. A CB shall be accredited for grower group scope if they have policies and procedures to verify compliance of the group and the individual group members.

C.12.1.3 The grower group composed of production units, sites, or facilities, shall be recognized as a "person" according to part 13 of SFCR.

C.12.1.4 The grower group may be organized on itself, that is, as a co-operative, or as a structured group of producers affiliated to a processor.

C.12.1.5 All members of the grower group shall apply similar production systems and should be in geographical proximity to each other. Only small farmers can be members of the group covered by group certification. Large farms can also belong to the group but have to be inspected annually by the CB.

C.12.1.6 The grower group shall be established formally, based on written agreements with its members. It shall have a central management, established decision procedures and be a legal entity.

C.12.1.7 The grower group shall have in place an effective and documented internal control system (ICS).

C.12.1.8 The management of the grower group shall sign a legally enforceable agreement with the CB specifying the responsibilities of both parties. The management shall obtain signed obligations from all grower group members to comply with the Canada Organic Standards and to permit inspection by the CB, the CVB or the CFIA.

C.12.1.9 The practices of the grower group operation shall be uniform and reflect a consistent process or methodology, using the same inputs and processes.

C.12.1.10 Participation in the grower group shall be limited to those members who market their organic production only through the grower group. A member of a grower group shall register to only one grower group for a given product. The maximum size of a grower group shall be 2,000 members.

C.12.2 Requirements for internal control system (ICS)

C.12.2.1 The grower group shall document and implement an internal control system (ICS) for supervision and documentation of production practices and inputs used at each sub-unit, and collected at each production unit, site, or facility. An identified person or body is responsible for verifying compliance with the Canada Organic Regime of each member of the group.

C.12.2.2 The internal control system shall include a contractual arrangement with each member of the grower group.

C.12.2.3 The internal control system shall be implemented by competent personnel including ICS manager and ICS inspectors. ICS inspectors designated by the grower group shall carry out internal controls.

C.12.2.4. Adequate number of ICS inspectors shall be identified from within the group based on the type, structure, size, products, and the activities of the group. The ICS inspectors shall be trained annually and their knowledge shall be assessed and documented at the end of the training.

C.12.2.5 The ICS inspectors shall carry out at least 1 annual on-site inspection visit to each individual member including visits to fields and facilities. Any additional risk-based inspections shall be conducted in accordance with the schedule and the procedures provided by the ICS manager.

C.12.2.6 The ICS inspectors shall draft internal inspection reports and submit it within a timeframe specified in the ICS to the ICS manager.

C.12.2.7 The internal control system shall contain appropriate records including:

  • production description, production and/or preparation specifications for products to which the application applies
  • maps, description of the farms and the facilities of all members
  • list of inputs (ingredients and agricultural substances)
  • a copy of organic production and/or preparation plans
  • traceability records, including information on the quantities, on the following activities, where relevant:
    1. purchase and distribution of farm inputs including plant reproductive material by the group;
    2. production including harvest;
    3. storing;
    4. preparation;
    5. delivery of products from each member to the joint marketing system;
    6. placing on the market of products by the grower group.
  • corrective actions required by the CB during the previous certification cycle, as well as any corrective measures implemented by members concerning these requests
  • a complete list of registered group members
  • continuous verification of implementation of the internal inspections
  • summary of the internal inspection reports including the date of the last internal inspection with the name of the ICS inspector
  • the training of members of the group on the ICS procedures and the requirements of COR
  • the approval of new members in an existing group or, where appropriate, the approval of new production units or new activities of existing members upon the approval by the ICS manager on the basis of the internal inspection report

C.12.2.8 The internal control system shall have a mechanism to remove noncompliant group members from the list. The CB should be notified when a (noncompliant) member is sanctioned and/or when voluntarily withdrawn.

C.12.2.9 The internal control system shall record all nonconformities. The ICS shall require the member to respond to the NC report issued by the ICS within 30 working days of its receipt. The response shall either provide evidence of completion of corrective action taken to address each NC or present a plan with milestones as to how each NC will be addressed. This plan shall include a completion date not exceeding 90 working days from receipt of the NCs. The ICS shall accept times greater than those stated for the closure of a NC as long as they are justified and documented.

C.12.3 Initial certification

C.12.3.1 The CB shall evaluate the effectiveness of the ICS to assess compliance of all members with the requirements set out in CAN/CGSB 32.310, CAN/CGSB 32.311 and CAN/CGSB 32.312.

C.12.3.2 The certification inspection of the grower group by the CB shall include an assessment of the risks to organic integrity within the grower group and the geographical location in which it functions. A sample of all sites under the grower group's responsibility shall be subject to inspection visits by the CB to assess the effectiveness of the ICS. The CB may justify exceptions to this rule based on risk assessment.

C.12.3.3 The number of group members subject to the initial certification inspection shall be based on the results of a risk assessment and the following calculations.

C. Factors to define the risk as normal, medium and high shall include:

C. factors related to the magnitude of the grower group

  • organisation size and sites' size
  • value of the products
  • numbers of years the grower group has functioned
  • number of new members registered yearly
  • staff turnover
  • the management structure of the internal control system
  • volume and value of the production
  • the type of non-compliances

C. factors related to the characteristics of the grower group

  • variations in the product systems
  • risks for intermingling and/or contamination
  • geographical dispersion of the sites
  • degree of uniformity among the production units, sites or facilities

C. For normal risk situation, the number of group members subject to the initial certification inspection shall not be lower than the square root of the total number of units under the responsibility of the group.

C. If the risk is medium, the resulting number from C. shall be multiplied by 1.2.

C. If the risk is high, the resulting number from C. shall be multiplied by 1.4.

C. All calculation totals from C. – C. ending with decimals are to be rounded up.

C.12.3.4 The CB shall assign VOs who have appropriate training on inspection of internal control systems.

C.12.3.5 During the certification inspection the VO shall determine whether:

  • C. all internal control documentation is in place
  • C. internal inspections of all group members have been carried out annually
  • C. new group members are only included after successful resolution of any NCs found during the internal inspection, according to the procedures agreed with the CB
  • C. all noncompliances have been dealt with appropriately by the ICS
  • C. inspection records have been maintained up to date by the ICS

C.12.3.6 The VO shall carry out a witness audit to determine whether the inspections of the ICS are conducted as written by ICS inspectors.

C.12.4 Maintenance of certification

C.12.4.1 Each year the CB shall define and justify a risk-based sample of members subject to annual inspection to assess the effectiveness of the ICS. The minimum number of members subject to annual CB inspection shall be square root of the total number of members multiplied by 1.5.

C.12.4.2 In cases of high risk members the CB shall increase the number of group members subject to annual inspection to at least 2 times the square root of the number of the members in the grower group (for example, ICS has issued a lot of internal sanctions, or a lot of new members).

C.12.4.3 The members visited by the CB shall be predominantly different from 1 year to another. In addition to the risk factors defined at C., the CBs may consider the following selection criteria when selecting the sites being subject to visits:

  • results from internal control system inspection
  • complaint files
  • significant variations of the sites' size
  • modifications since the last certification

C.12.4.4 The CB shall ensure that the grower group maintains an updated list of all members and informs the CB in a timely manner anytime there are changes to the status of the members and changes to the group as a whole.

C.12.4.5 The CB shall ensure that the grower group has established procedures for adding new members to the grower group.

C.12.5 Records

C.12.5.1 The CB shall ensure that the grower group has record-keeping protocols for the individual production units, sites, or facilities within a grower group.

C.12.5.2 The CB shall maintain records of sample inspection to ensure that over time, the inspections are representative of the grower group as a whole and take into account any previously identified risk.

C.12.6 Certification documents

C.12.6.1 The CB shall provide certification documents to the grower group as a whole. Members within a grower group that have had its operations or product certified cannot possess individual certificates unless that member has obtained its own certification independent from the grower group for a different product.

C.12.7 Suspension and cancellation

C.12.7.1 The CB shall hold the grower group as a whole responsible for compliance of all members.

C.12.7.2 The CB shall have a documented suspension policy in the event of noncompliance by the grower group or a member.

C.12.7.3 The CB shall suspend or cancel the certification granted to the grower group as a whole, in accordance with part 13 of the SFCR, in cases where the grower group's internal control system fails to act on these noncompliances.

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