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CFIA procedure for organic equivalency determination and on-going monitoring of the existing arrangements

1.0 Scope and purpose

This procedure describes the approach to be followed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) when negotiating an organic equivalency arrangement with a competent authority having jurisdiction in a foreign country and Canada's requirements for on-going monitoring of the existing arrangements.

2.0 Authority

The authority for the determination of a foreign country's equivalency status is provided by:

3.0 Requirements for equivalency application and determination

3.1 Application phase

3.1.1 The foreign country is required to submit an application for equivalency determination in writing to:

Food Systems Evaluation
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

3.1.2 The application should include the following information:

  1. The competent authority's contact person(s) and contact information.
  2. The legal basis for the foreign government technical measures and assessment system.
  3. The scope of the requested determination.
  4. A detailed side-by-side comparison table of the technical measures and conformity assessment with detailed documentation explaining the foreign government's position on all differences.
  5. Supporting documentation describing all parts of the conformity assessment procedure used in the foreign country. This documentation should include legal, specification and procedures, compliance and enforcement process.
  6. All documents must be submitted in one of the official languages of Canada (English or French).

3.1.3 The CFIA will acknowledge receipt of the submission by official letter within seven working days.

3.1.4 Application review and assessment

  1. The CFIA will review the submission and will conduct a side-by-side comparison of the Canadian and foreign country's regulatory and technical measures and conformity assessment system by using the Equivalency Determination Analysis template.
  2. The comparison analysis will be conducted in collaboration with other government departments and the industry.
  3. A document review will be prepared and submitted to the foreign country for further review and discussion.
  4. Additional information or documents or clarification purposes might be requested to ease the comparison process.
  5. An on-site assessment may be conducted to determine the extent to which the assessed competent authority demonstrates conformity with the requirements specified in the provided documentation.

3.2 Equivalency negotiation phase

3.2.1 The CFIA will coordinate the communication with the foreign country regarding equivalency determination.

3.2.2 In formal negotiations, the CFIA will work with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to determine the equivalency status.

3.2.3 The CFIA will deliver the results of equivalency status to the foreign country by official document.

3.2.4 The CFIA in consultation with other government departments will prepare the letters or arrangement.

3.2.5 The equivalency agreement between the Canada and the foreign country will become effective upon signatures by both parties, or at later date as agreed by both parties.

3.2.6 The equivalency agreement may be amended at any time by mutual understanding of the parties.

3.2.7 The equivalency agreement may be terminated by either party upon 90 days written notice to the other party (Annex 1).

4.0 Equivalency arrangement implementation phase

4.1 The Parties will establish an on-going monitoring process to verify the effectiveness of each other's control systems.

4.2 The process will include annual reports and/or peer reviews.

4.3 The annual report will cover the activities for the previous calendar year as specified in Annex 1 and is required to be submitted by March 31 of the current year (Annex 2).

4.4 Canada will review the annual report to determine on-going compliance with the existing arrangement and may request further information in support of the annual report.

4.5 Canada will issue notice of assessment as a result of the annual report review.

4.6 Canada will establish an evaluation cycle which will identify the frequency of the peer reviews. (Annex 3).

4.7 The peer review will be conducted in accordance with the CFIA peer review procedure.

4.8 The Parties may establish a Technical Working Group (TWG) to consider matters that may arise in connection with the equivalency arrangement. The TWG shall convene at least once each calendar year.

5.0 Obligations of the parties

5.1 As a result of equivalency negotiation, obligations may vary in some respects depending on the circumstances of the particular determination.

5.2 Each party will notify the other of any planned legislative changes or revised equivalency determination procedures including changes in policies, procedures, standards or documents (certificates) which are relevant to the equivalency arrangement.

5.3 Each party shall promptly notify the other in writing of any changes in the list of its competent authorities and certifying agents.

5.4 Each party shall promptly notify the other in writing of any instances of significant non-compliance with the party 's organic certification program.

5.5 Each party will notify the other of any organic product certified under the terms of the equivalency arrangement -which is found to be in non-compliance, as a result of consumer or trade complaint.

5.6 Upon receipt of such a notification, the exporting country should undertake the necessary investigation to determine the cause of the problem.

Annex 1 – Equivalency application and determination process

The Government of Canada including the CFIA oversee the Equivalency application and determination process is, with support from the following partners:

Equivalency application and determination process

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Image - Equivalency application and determination process. Description follows.

Description for figure - Equivalency application and determination process

Annex 1 Equivalency application and determination process

  • This flow chart provides a supporting reference of how the Canada Organic Office Procedure for Equivalency Determination works. The process consists of three phases. Application, Negotiation, and Equivalency Arrangement Implementation.

Phase 1: Application

  • Application submission seeking equivalency
  • Decision to proceed (if the decision is no, a letter of non-engagement/postponement would be sent by the COO)
  • Government review of application to ensure completeness
    • Non Technical: Timing/resource, Domestic and Trade Policies, Market Access, and Government Priorities.
    • Technical: Administration, Regulation, Accreditation/Certification, Standards and PSL, and Monitoring and Enforcement

Phase 2: Negotiation

  • Develop Government Position
    • Technical and Bilateral Discussions
    • Fleshing out outstanding issues/questions
    • Prepare and exchange signed letters

Phase 3: Equivalency Arrangement Implementation

  • Arrangements in Place (signed letter published)
    • On- going evaluation of foreign countries amendments to their organic system
    • Evaluations (annual reports and peer reviews)
    • Technical Working Group Meetings

Annex 2 – Annual report template

As part of the on-going monitoring of existing equivalence arrangements the foreign country is required to provide the following information covering the previous calendar year by March 31 of the current year:

  1. Types and quantities of organic certified organic products exported to Canada under the equivalency arrangement;
  2. Any amendments to the production standards and the regulatory system including the accreditation and certification procedures that have been adopted. Please describe and explain why the organic system remains equivalent to the Canada Organic Regime.
  3. A current list and complete contact information of all accreditation bodies and certification bodies recognized under the arrangement;
  4. Overview of the monitoring and supervisory activities carried out by the competent authorities, including analysis of reports and any other information transmitted by the accreditation bodies and certification bodies
  5. Overview of the enforcement action taken by the competent authorities. Please provide information on complaints management, follow up on positive residue testing and cancellation of organic certification.
  6. Any other relevant information

Annex 3 – Peer review frequency cycle

The following table outlines the types of assessments that the CFIA will conduct as part of the on-going monitoring of the existing equivalency arrangements after the arrangement is signed. The same sequence of events will be logically extended to cover these years subsequent to those shown below.
First year Second year Third year Fourth year
AnnualTable Note 1 report AnnualTable Note 1 report AnnualTable Note 1 report Peer review

Table Note

Table note 1

Canada may conduct unscheduled peer review as a result of changes to the regulations or high number of complaints

Return to table note 1  referrer

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