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Importers / Exporters & the Standards

Do the standards apply to imported products?

Yes. Both the regulations and the standards apply to imported organic products. All products labeled as organic in Canada must conform to the standards.

The Organic Products Regulations (OPR) (SOR/2006-338) state that, “a person who wishes to market an organic product in import trade shall apply in writing to the competent authority of the country of origin for an attestation confirming that the product meets the requirements of these Regulations” (SOR/2006-338, Section 10). This means that the foreign certifying body (CB) that certified the imported organic product must have been assessed as conforming to Canada’s standards.

I want to import certified organic products. How will the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) assess foreign certifying bodies (CBs)?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will assess foreign certifying bodies by evaluating the equivalency of their standards and the Canadian standards. Equivalency determination with competent governmental authorities will be considered for countries that have regulated organic regimes. For countries with no regulated regime, the Canada Organic Office (COO) will recognize conformity verification bodies to accredit foreign certifying bodies (CBs) that will be certifying in these countries. In either case, the CFIA will require that a list of certifying bodies that are accredited to certify to the Canadian standards be submitted to the Canada Organic Office for administrative purposes. A more specific outline of the process and protocol for the certification of imported organic products is set out in the Canada Organic Office (COO) Operating Manual.

Equivalence can be defined as the acceptance that different standards or technical regulations fulfill common objectives. In negotiating equivalence with other organic standards, Canada will assess the gaps and determine variations between the organic standards using criteria for variations in standards. These criteria consider that all organic products must comply with organic principles, and accept that organic products can be grown in different agricultural, biophysical, and socioeconomic environments.

I represent a foreign Conformity Verification Body. Can we accredit certifying bodies in Canada?

Yes. A foreign conformity verification bodies (CVBs) will be able to recommend the accreditation of certifying bodies (CBs) in Canada once its system has been adequately assessed by the Canada Organic Office (COO) and it has signed an agreement for accreditation with the COO.

The conformity verification body assessment process and criteria are listed in the Quality Management System (QMS) Manual. Assessment activities include an on-site visit. There are no fees for this assessment. Fees might be considered in the future upon consultation. Foreign conformity verification bodies do not require a Canadian office to operate in Canada.

At this time, the Canada Organic Regime (COR) does not automatically recognize conformity verification bodies that are recognized by other regulatory regimes such as those in the United States, the European Union, and Japan. This policy might be modified once the Canada Organic Office (COO) assesses other regulatory regimes.

Where can I get more information?

For more information about importing and exporting organic products, contact Import / Export Canada (especially their page about Starting an Import / Export Business). You can also contact the Organic Trade Association which works in organic trade in Canada and the US.