What is the meaning of "certified organic"?

When a product is "certified organic" in Canada, this means it conforms to the requirements included in 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 including the verification of inputs, quality assurance and traceability audit, examinations of accounting records (input/output balance) and, sometimes, physicochemical analyses of finished products.

What is a certification body?

An organization that meets certain criteria such as independence, impartiality, confidentiality, competency, as required by the international standard ISO/IEC 17065 to have confidence in its certification decision.

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 body must submit a request for accreditation to the CAEQ, which will then carry out a compliance evaluation (documentary and on-site audit) covering the firm's structure, its certification system, and professional practices as resquested by the international standard and the competent authority. The CARTV 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 a documentary review (inputs, labels, recipes, ...) and an annual inspection of all farm fields and facilities and farming activity records as well as periodic testing of soil and products to ensure that operators involved in production or preparation activities meet the requirements of the Canadian organic standards. 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 and is suject to an annual verification.

Who must obtain certification for its products or operations?

All operators participating to production or preparation (processing, handling, labelling/packaging) 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. For much details, please read the Quebec Organic Designation Specification Manual.

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

Each year, your certification body will provide you with obligations to fulfill in order to maintain the certification of your organic products. They actually include an update of your file (add/remove products, inputs,...) and an on-site inspection during the production period.

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 for the reserved designation "Organic". They include the agricultural food and product categories currently covered by Quebec Designation Specification Manual, and only products within these categories may be labeled organic. These product categories are: agricultural products, foodstuffs, products intended for organic animal consumption, aquaculture ; attestation for inputs and services. For much details, please read the Specification Manual.

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 or to provide an help during the conversion period.

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.

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 in Québec.

If operators directly sell all of their organic products to customers located outside Québec, in others canadian provinces or international market, they may obtain a COR certification from a CFIA accredited certification body. Usually CARTV accredited certification bodies are also accredited by the CFIA and can offer this service at the same time.

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

COR certificates issued for organic products from countries other than Canada 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. Under some Organic Equivalency Arrangements signed between Canada and other countries, it is required to obtain a complemtary attestation/certificate.