What is the meaning of "certified organic"?

When a product is "certified organic," this means it conforms to the requirements included in the Quebec Organic Reference Standards, the Canadian Organic Standards and any other standards deemed equivalent to those of Canada.

What is certification?

Certification is an administrative procedure through which certification bodies provide a written guarantee that foods or food control systems have complied with requirements established by the law.

Can I rely on certification?

You may rely on certification because it is a procedure subjected to very strict supervision. This actually implies an entire series of control measures, such as production site inspections, quality assurance audit systems, examinations of accounting records and, sometimes, physicochemical analyses of finished products.

What is a certification body?

An organization that meets certain criteria such as independence, impartiality, effectiveness and competency, as required by international standards contained in the ISO/IEC Guide 65:1996.

What is the role of a certification body?

Its role is to verify that products targeted by a certification request conform to certification specifications, and finally to issue a certificate accompanied with an authorization (licensing) for the use of the certification mark as well as the “organic” designation on certified products.

How does a certification body obtain its CARTV-accredited certifier status?

First of all, a firm must submit a request for accreditation to the CAEQ, which will then carry out a compliance evaluation (audit) covering the firm's structure, its quality system, and professional practices. The Board will then grant the firm the status of accredited certification body once these procedures have been completed, a period that may extend over 6 to 12 months.

What does certification entail?

The certification procedure includes annual inspection of all farm fields and facilities and farming activity records as well as periodic testing of soil, water and produce to ensure that operators involved in production or preparation activities meet the requirements of the Canadian and Quebec organic standards. Periodic unannounced inspections are also conducted by the accredited certification bodies.

When a firm has obtained certification, for how long will it be valid?

Any certification is valid as long as the certification body does not suspend or withdraw it.

Who must obtain certification for its products or operations?

All operators participating to production or preparation (processing or repackaging) of products using the designation «organic», «certified organic», etc. must get a certification. It is obtained after an inspection conducted by an accredited certification body. The wholesale and retail companies buying and selling products without modification of the packaging, the labelling or the content are not obliged to get a certification.

What can I do to maintain my certification over the years?

Each year, your certification body will forward to you a notification in which are indicated the obligations to fulfill in order to maintain your certification. They actually include an on-site inspection.

Can all agricultural food and products be certified as organic?

In Quebec, only certain products are included and within the CARTV's field of control. They include the agricultural food and product categories currently covered by Quebec Organic Reference Standards, and only products within these categories may be labeled organic. These product categories are: agricultural products, foodstuffs, products intended for organic animal consumption, as well as maple syrup products and products from aquaculture.

It should be mentioned that other product categories, such as cosmetics, personal care products or textile products, may eventually be certified even though it is not mandatory for those who manufacture them.

Which costs must be incurred to obtain certification?

Each certification body is required to establish and publish fee schedules that are applied fairly to all applicants. Fees vary usually from agency to agency, and depend on the size and type and market access of organic operation to be certified. Quality and efficiency of services provided by the certifier are also criteria to be taken into account by the operator looking for a certification body. Some Canadian provinces offer cost-share reimbursements to farmers to offset certification fees.

How can I contact an organic certifier?

For certification of organic products across Canada, the CFIA Website lists all accredited organic certifiers with their contact information at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/orgbio/cbcanliste.shtml.

In Quebec, only CARTV-accredited certification bodies can grant organic certification. http://www.cartv.gouv.qc.ca/en/accredited-certifying-bodies-organic-designation

CARTV accredited certification bodies appear on the accredited bodies list published by the CFIA.

Can an operator located in Québec sell its products outside Québec if they are only certified to Québec standards?

Since June 30, 2011, this is no longer possible if operators sell their organic products in other Canadian provinces, the United States or European Union member states. These products must meet the requirements of the Canada Organic Regime and be certified in accordance with the Canadian Organic Standards. Products exported outside Canada must also meet the specific requirements set out in equivalency agreements with the United States or European Union.

Is it absolutely required for any Québec operator to apply for organic certification to a CARTV accredited certification body?

Yes, it is required by law.

However, if operators directly sell all of their organic products to customers located outside Québec, in either Canada or the United States (without an intermediary in Québec) or in a European Union member state, they may obtain certification in accordance with the Canadian Organic Standards from a body that is not accredited by the CARTV; however, the selected body must be on the list of accredited bodies published by the CFIA.

If operators directly sell all of their organic products to customers located outside the aforementioned markets, they may obtain certification from any certification body, regardless of whether or not they appear on the list of accredited bodies published by the CFIA, provided that this certification meets the requirements of the competent authority in the country to which the certified products are destined.

Is the COS certificate for products originating from outside Canada valid in Québec?

COS certificates issued for organic products from countries other than Canada and the United States are valid for products “imported” throughout Canada, including Québec, provided that the body that certified these products appears on the list of accredited bodies published by the CFIA and the country of origin of these products is listed in the geographic scope for the accreditation issued. In order to be marketed in Canada and Québec, NOP-certified products from the United States or third countries must always be accompanied by an attestation proving that they are compliant with the terms of the US-Canada organic equivalency arrangement.