ORGANIC FEASTS CERTIFICATION
Organic Feast has been Certified Organic since 1998, and is still Newcastle's and the Hunter Valley's ONLY certified Organic store.
Our certification is highly valued by us, and it is your guarantee that you are getting what you are paying for. There is no other way to be sure that what you are buying is 'organic'!
There is no regulation of the word "Organic" in Australia, the word can be used by anyone, and on any product, this has lead to significant misuse and misrepresentation of the term Organic. Certification means we are in a system that brings integrity and accountability, to our labelling, our storage methods, and most importantly our customers.
To carry the label of being CERTIFIED ORGANIC and displaying the subsequent certification number and logo, requires certification by one of Australias 7 certification bodies. Each of these bodies standards are set out in law by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).
For more information on Organic Standards and our compliance requirements go to this link.
Below is a great article explaining the certification process from Clean Food Volume 1, No.3
Why is organic certification necessary?
Unless the produce is being consumed in the local community and consumers have a trusting relationship with their local farmer, there is nothing to stop a farmer selling any produce and just labelling it organic, despite the fact that it may be far from organic. The best way to avoid buying mislabelled organic food is to always look for a certification symbol and number. Organic certification is important to ensure that we protect the integrity of the word organic by certifying farmers and food processors alike.
Of course in an ideal world there would be no reason for organic certification as synthetic chemicals would not be used on farms or in the food we eat, but until we reach that utopia organic certification really is necessary. So remember if you pick a product up and it is not bearing a certification logo and number then you cannot be sure that the produce is truly organic.
- Organic Certification protects consumers against deception and fraud in the marketplace.
- Organic Certification protects producers of genuine organic produce against misrepresentation of conventional produce as organic.
- Organic Certification ensures that all stages of production, processing and marketing are subject to inspection and meet predetermined requirements (the Australian Organic Standards).
If buyng non-certified Organic produce, Organic Feast recommends that you ask as many question possible, perhaps ask to visit their farm. Though most are honest, unfortunately there are some dishonest folk out there and some who just don't understand the dangers of chemicals, so it is best to be vigilant.
THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS
Any certified organic product sold in Australia must by law display a certification symbol and number. When consumers see a certified organic symbol and number they can be sure that the product complies with a set of standards that are enforced on behalf of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).
Organic certification is not just applicable to the primary producer (or farmer) it applies from the paddock to the plate and encompasses every piece of the supply chain along the way. Therefore processors such as cheese and juice makers also have to go through the certification process to be able to sell the end product as certified organic.
;Certification is maintained by organic producers, processors and retailers through the following means:
- Annual audits and spot (unannounced) checks are carried out to ensure full compliance with the strict Australian Organic Standard
- All operators must maintain an OMP (Organic Management Plan) and update it annually
- There must be a clearly auditable trail of all product sold by a certified operator to prevent fraud.
Australian farmers require a minimum of three years of organic management on their land before they can hold a certificate stating 'Certified Organic'. Once they have this certificate they can bear the certifying body's certification symbol and number on their product.
To get to this point though a number of processes and audits have to be gone through.
Here's an overview of the rigorous system that Australian Certified Organic (ACO) deploys:
- Application and payment received from farmer.
- Organic Management Plan (OMP) and Statutory Declaration (SD) completed by farmer and sent to the ACO office for approval.
- OMP and SD are checked by a certification officer for compliance to the Australian Organic Standards -if more information is required or an area of the OMP is not compliant to the Australian Organic Standards then the farmer is notified and asked to submit further information.
- Once OMP and SD have been approved an audit is allocated to be carried out on the farmer's property.
- At the first audit, which is carried out by one of ACO's experienced auditors, a number of checks are taken. These include a soil test, a risk based assessment of neighbouring activities (for example checking if the farm next door sprays with chemicals) and a check for chemicals stored on the farm.
- Once the initial audit has taken place the soil sample is sent to a registered laboratory and the results are sent back to the ACO office along with the audit report and the auditor's recommendations.
- The audit report and soil test results are then thoroughly checked by a representative from ACO's Certification Review Committee. During the review of the audit report and soil test the standards are checked against to ensure all parts of the farm are compliant to the organic standards.
- Once the review is complete a copy of the audit report is sent back to the farmer along with a Licence Agreement and any Corrective Actions that need addressing.
- The farmer then checks the Licence Agreement and has to address any Corrective Actions. The signed Licence Agreement is then sent back to the ACO office along with any further information required.
- Once the signed Licence Agreement and further information is received at the ACO office it is checked and an Annual Certificate is issued to the farmer showing their level of certification, either In Conversion or Certified Organic depending on how long they have been under the organic management system.
The In Conversion label is given to food that is from a farm that has been in the organic certification program for at least 12 months but where the land has been managed organically for less than three years.
Prior history of the land use (where verifiable and documented) may enable a shortening of the three-year time period, however the first 12 month pre-certification period is compulsory for all land based systems. Organic farms which have been in the certification system for less than 12 months cannot make reference to being certified organic or use a certification body's logo on their produce.
What about landless systems?
Landless production is where an agricultural product is not grown in the soil, for example mushrooms or aquaculture. These types of system don't have to go through the 3 year conversion process as there is no soil involved so there are no potential chemical residues to get rid of. However landless systems are still subject to the stringent certification system and must have two audits throughout an entire production cycle before they can achieve organic certification. The production cycle for mushrooms is usually about 15 weeks. Organic certification of landless systems only applies to products that cannot be grown in soil.
What about livestock?
While not all organic farms have livestock, animals are a core component of recycling nutrients and assisting in the biodiversity on the farm. Of course livestock also are used for food production. So what makes an animal organic?
Animals must be fed certified organic feeds, cannot be given growth promotants or given routine antibiotics during their lifetime, and must be able to roam and graze freely performing their natural behaviours. Organic livestock producers must practice 'best environmental management' ensuring biodiversity and land and wildlife conservation. Each animal sold must have a verified lifetime of organic management in accordance with the Australian Organic Standard and carry clear identification.
Animal welfare is also paramount. Consideration for the natural behaviours of animals is critical in the planning and management of organic livestock farms.
What about processed foods?
Processors, wholesalers and retailers do not have to go through the same three-year conversion period that farmers do as there is no land to convert. They are however subject to the same scrutiny by the auditor and Certification Review Committee, who will check that they are complying to the Australian Organic Standards.
For organically processed foods and personal care products, minimal processing is permitted only, with just a limited number of conventional but natural or traditional ingredients allowed. Hence no unnatural or synthesised dyes, colourings, flavourings, preservatives or other additives are permitted.
This means literally thousands of conventional processed food ingredients and additives are simply not permitted in organic processed foods. For a full list of the restricted items that can be used (other than certified organic ingredients) see the Australian Organic Standard Annex III, which can be found on our website.
In order to sell a processed product as certified organic it is required that a minimum of 95 per cent of the ingredients are certified organic. The remaining 5 per cent, if not available organically, must come from the list in the Australian Organic Standard Annex III and must be be sourced from a certified organic supplier.
International and domestically produced products and labels
You will occasionally notice products imported from overseas that are labelled and sold as organic. It is essential that you insist on there being a certification mark on the product. The most likely certification marks you will come across are:
- the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) logo
- a European Union (EU) logo from a certifier such as the Soil Association
- a reference to the European Organic Standard 2092/91
- a New Zealand logo such as Biogro.
These independent logos and standards mean that the product and the producer have been assessed in accordance with international standards by a third party organisation.