Canadian Organic Regulations
After years of developing standards and lobbying government to enact regulations to provide government oversight of the standards, in 2009 Canada enacted the federal Organic Products Regulations.
Click here to view the History of Organic Regulations in Canada
The Organic Products Regulations (OPR) legally require organic products to be certified according to the Canadian Organic Standards (COS) if they are traded across provincial or international borders or use the Canada Organic Logo below.
As of July 1, 2009, you can start looking for the Canada Organic Logo and be assured the product is certified the Canadian Organic Standards (COS), even on imported products. The use of the official Canada Organic Logo is voluntary, so it will not appear on all certified organic products.
The name of the certifying body must appear on the label of organic products that are traded across provincial or international borders or that bear the Canada Organic Logo. In cases where certified organic products are not labelled, a certificate from the certifying body (CB) should be displayed at the point of sale, for example, at the farmer’s market of farm store.
The Canada Organic Office Operating Manual 2008 is the third pillar of the Canadian organic regulatory system along with the Organic Products Regulations and the Canadian Organic Standards. The Manual details the administration and enforcement of the OPR. It will be updated on an annual basis and prior to the implementation of the regulation is undergoing a public review process.
Not all organic standards are exactly the same. Nor should they be. Soils and agriculture are different throughout the world and different countries produce different products. For instance, Canada does not have organic standards that govern the production of coffee because our farmers don't grow coffee. For the most part, if Canadian farmers, processors and traders want to sell a product in foreign market, they have to certify their product to the standard of the host country. The same is true for foreign businesses that want to export to Canada. However, the Canadian government is trying to make it easier for organic products to move around the globe. Country to country equivalency negotiations can decrease the amount of paperwork required. As of June 2009, Canada has one signed equivalency deal with its largest trading partner, the United States. Canadian farmers and processors certified to the Canadian Organic Regime (COR) will no longer have to certify to the National Organic Program (the U.S. organic regime). There is one exception that Canadian farmers should take note of though. Dairy products and dairy cows that have ever been treated with antibiotics in Canada are not considered organic in the U.S. Similarly, U.S. operators exporting to Canada will face restrictions on Chilean nitrate (sodium nitrate) and products from soilless systems (hydroponic and aeroponic) will not be considered organic in Canada.
Stream of Commerce
A stream of commerce policy is in place to help organic businesses adapt from the voluntary organic system to the mandatory system that came into force July 1 2009. The policy addresses issues such as the status of products already on the shelves or in storage, but which have not been certified to the COS prior to June 30, 2009. It also describes the Canadian Organic Office's compliance enforcement policies for the initial implementation stage following the coming into force of Canada’s new regulations on June 30, 2009.
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Are you worried that a product labelled as organic is not really organically grown or processed?
If you believe that a product identified as organic is mislabeled and misrepresented, you can lodge a complaint with the CFIA. The CFIA’s mandate includes:
- Investigating consumer and industry complaints,
- Developing programs designed to encourage compliance with the provisions of the respective Acts,
- Developing consumer protection policies (CFIA).
What is against the law?
It is against the law to label or represent a product as organic if it is not certified organic. This applies whether the claim is made on a product’s label at the grocery store or a sign at your farmer’s market. Look for the certifying body’s logo to verify that it is certified organic. Visit COG’s Organic Labelling page for more information.
Multiple laws deal with organic labelling:
- Organic Products Regulation (in force June 30, 2009);
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act / Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations;
- Food and Drugs Act / Food and Drug Regulations.
The national Organic Standards (CAN/CGSB-32.310-2006 and CAN/CGSB-32.311-2006) are not enforceable until after June 30, 2009, as they are referenced in the legal text of the Organic Products Regulations (SOR/2006-338). The Organic Products Regulations come into force on June 30, 2009. In order to be considered organic under the organic regulation, products must be certified organic according to the national standard by an accredited certifying body.
Two Canadian laws prohibit deceptive labelling of foods in regards to their method of production or other characteristics – the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Food and Drugs Act. Until June 30, 2009, these are the only regulations in place to prevent misrepresentation of non-organic food as organic. Refer to CFIA’s Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising.
How do I make a complaint?
If you believe that a product identified as organic is mislabelled and misrepresented, you should bring your complaint to the CFIA. Here’s how:
- Identify the producer or establishment targeted by your complaint (Name, address, contact information);
- Gather all relevant, supporting documentation, including:
- Description of the problem;
- Brand name of product;
- Size, universal product code (UPC code – 12 digits), and best before date;
- Date of purchase;
- A daytime number where an inspector can reach you as well as your home address (for the purpose of identifying which CFIA regional office to refer your inquiry to);
- Keep the remaining product in case a sample is needed for an investigation;
- Call, mail, or send an E-Mail to your Regional Office of the CFIA with all above information (if available).
To Send an E-Mail:
E-mails to this address will be forwarded to your regional office
To Call or Mail:
General Inquiries Line: 1-800-442-2342
1081 Main St
PO Box 6088
Moncton, New Brunswick E1C 8R2
Room 746-C - 2001 University St
Montreal, Quebec H3A 3N2
174 Stone Rd W
Guelph, Ontario N1G 4S9
Western and Northern Areas
1115 57th Ave NE
Calgary, Alberta T2E 9B2