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Organic claims enforcement

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) uses a risk-based approach to verify that imported and domestically produced products meet Canadian standards and regulations. CFIA compliance and enforcement actions occur all along the supply chain and involve numerous stakeholders and jurisdictions.

Compliance and enforcement activities

Regulated parties must comply with all applicable acts and regulations including those administered and enforced by the CFIA. Under the Canada Organic Regime (COR) the enforcement of Part 13 of the Safe Food For Canadians regulations (SFCR) is a shared responsibility.

The CFIA accredits and oversees the certification bodies (CBs) based on the conformity verification bodies' (CVBs') recommendations. The CBs verify the compliance with the Canadian Organic Standards of more than 8,000 certificate holders around the world.

Those who seek organic certification of their agriculture or aquaculture products or packaging and labelling activities must do so in accordance with Part 13 of the SFCR.

Both CFIA and the CBs protect consumers by maintaining the integrity of the Canada Organic Regime and the use of the organic claims and the Canada Organic Logo.

Enforcement activities conducted by CFIA accredited certification bodies (CBs)

CBs enforce the CFIA organic regulations by:

Enforcement by the CFIA

The CFIA takes a risk-based approach to compliance management. When the CFIA identifies non-compliance with the legislation it administers and enforces, it has a number of tools it can use to respond. The Agency:

Control and enforcement actions

Control and enforcement actions can include product seizure and detention or fines (Administrative Monetary Penalty).

Compliance and enforcement data and resources

Since March 2011, the CFIA has posted certain data on its enforcement and compliance activities. This data includes the names of certification holders who have had their organic certification cancelled under the Canada Organic Regime.

Cancelled organic certifications

An operator with a cancelled organic certification listed in the table below cannot market the products listed on their certificate as organic. Any attempt to sell non-organic product as organic is considered a violation of the SFCR and is subject to CFIA enforcement actions.

Suspended and cancelled certification bodies

The CFIA has the authority to suspend the accreditation of a certification body if there is non-compliance with any provision of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and Regulations, or ISO 17065 requirements.

Accreditation suspensions remain in effect until the required corrective actions are implemented and verified, or until the accreditation is cancelled.

File a complaint related to the Canada Organic Regime

Complaints can be filed against any product with a suspected fraudulent organic claim sold in Canada, any operator (company) holding certification under the Canada Organic Regime scope, a CFIA designated CVB, a CFIA accredited CB, and the COR team.

Review organic certificates

Checking organic certificates for validity

Valid organic certificates are issued to a certificate holder in good standing by a CB that is directly accredited by the CFIA or recognized under an equivalency arrangement. Each CB maintains a list of active certificate holders that can be used to cross check a certificate's validity and certificate holder's current status.

Any attempt to sell non-organic product as organic is considered a violation of the SFCR and is subject to CFIA enforcement actions.

Fraudulent certificates are occasionally made using the names of certified operators or CB without their consent. CBs and operators should continue to guard against these practices and exercise caution when purchasing from suppliers. The following flowchart can be used to determine if a given organic certificate is valid for marketing an organic product in Canada.

Anyone suspecting a violation of the regulations can report a complaint to the CFIA.

In such circumstances, the operator and CB are contacted to verify authenticity.

Flowchart: How to determine if an organic certificate is valid for marketing an organic product in Canada

Flowchart - How to determine if an organic certificate is valid for marketing an organic product in Canada. Description follows.

Description of Figure 1: Organic Certificate validation flowchart

The organic certificate validation flowchart is a decision tree chart used to verify the legitimacy of an Organic Certificate.

A separate box contains the following information:

Please note: A product with an "Organic" or "X% Organic ingredients" label claim must have an organic product certificate to support the claim.

The top box of the flow chart describes the initiation of the decision tree chart through the following question: "Is the Organic Certificate valid in Canada?"

Below is a choice of 4 boxes:

Option 1: Certificate is issued by a CFIA accredited CB?

Option 2: Certificate is issued by a CB accredited by a foreign competent authority that has an equivalency arrangement? Such as:

  • EU accredited CB under the EUCOEA
  • *Japanese accredited CB under the JCOEA
  • *Taiwanese accredited CB under the TCOEA
  • Swiss accredited CB under the SCOEA
  • *UK accredited CB under the UKCOEA

Option 3: Certificate is issued by CB accredited by the USDA?

Option 4: Certificate is issued by entity other than Option 1, 2 or 3.

If selecting option 1, then Q: "Standard is listed on certificate (must be Canada Organic standard)?"

  • If "No", then "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."
  • If "Yes", then, "Certificate is recent and was issued within the past year?"
    • If "Yes", then, "Product is listed on the certificate or in its attached appendix?"
    • If "Yes", then, "Certificate is valid for marketing in Canada."
    • If "No", then, "Certificate is not valid for marketing in Canada."

If selecting option 2, then Q: "Standard is listed on certificate (must be Organic standard of a foreign competent authority with which the CFIA has an equivalency arrangement)?"

  • If "No", then "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."
  • If "Yes", then, "Certificate is recent and was issued within the past year?"
    • If "Yes", then, "Product is listed on the certificate or in its attached appendix?"
    • If "Yes", then, "Certificate is valid for marketing in Canada."
    • If "No", then, "Certificate is not valid for marketing in Canada."

If selecting option 3, then Q: "Certificate includes the following attestation statement: Certified in accordance with the terms of the U.S.-Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement?"

  • If "No", then, "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."
  • If "Yes", then Q: "Standard is listed on the certificate (must be Organic standard of a foreign competent authority with which the CFIA has an equivalency arrangement?"
    • If "No", then "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."
    • If "Yes", then Q: "Certificate is recent and was issued within the past year?"
      • If "No", then "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."
      • If "Yes", then Q: "Product is listed on the certificate or in its attached appendix?"
        • If "No", then "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."
        • If "Yes", then, "Certificate is valid for marketing in Canada."

If selecting option 4, then, "Certificate not valid for marketing in Canada."

Further information is included in 2 boxes at the bottom of the flowchart:

  • Please note: documentation requirements for organic imports vary by country.
    • Organic certificates from the EU are called "Operator certificate"
    • Organic product from the following countries are accompanied not by Organic Certificates but by:
      • Japan: "Export Certificate"
      • UK: "Export Organic Certificate"
      • Taiwan: "Certificate for Transactions of Organic Products"
  • Next steps:
    • Ensure correct certificate was requested (product may have multiple organic certificates for other schemes, certificate provided may be for a component instead of the final product, document required may be known by a different name such as the "Certificate for Transactions of Organic Products" for Taiwan etc.)
    • If the certificate is not valid or suspected to be fraudulent (Altered in any way), please submit a complaint to the CFIA: Report a food-related concern.

Reported fraudulent organic certificates

The CFIA will compile a list with information about invalid certificates that have been publicly circulated into an easy-to-search table.

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