THE CERTIFICATION SYSTEM FOR ORGANICS IN EUROPE. HOW ARE ORGANIC PRODUCTS IDENTIFIED?
When we talk about organic, the keywords are safety and transparency, especially concerning consumers. In the countries of the European Union, organic agriculture is regulated by Regulation (EU) 2018/848, which came into effect on January 1, 2022. The Regulation contains provisions to be followed for both plant and animal organic productions, covering all aspects: production, processing, labeling, control, transportation, storage, and import of organic products from Third Countries.
In Europe, each Member State assigns both public authorities and private control bodies the task of conducting rigorous inspections under the supervision of central authorities. Each Member State assigns a different identifying code to each entity responsible for control and certification, which is displayed on the label. An agricultural enterprise that complies with the indications contained in the Regulation can obtain certification from one of the authorized control bodies and use the label and logo reserved for European organic products, the green leaf. In addition to the initial inspection to obtain certification, control bodies conduct one or more annual checks to ensure the maintenance of compliance. The logo can only be used on products that have at least 95% organic ingredients, while the remaining 5% must meet extremely rigorous conditions. The same ingredient cannot be present in both organic and non-organic form.
The presence of the European logo attests that the product is recognized and certified as organic by the European Union, and this is verified by the control system provided for by Regulation (EU) 2018/848, which in Italy is overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (MASAF), the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, and by ACCREDIA (the sole accreditation body). The label is the main tool for identifying and distinguishing an organic food from a conventional one. If a product is packaged, the label is directly on the packaging, and if it is loose, it must be displayed nearby or in the form of accompanying documentation.
HOW TO READ THE ORGANIC LABEL
- The European organic logo, which represents the stylized form of a leaf encircled by the 12 stars of the EU, provides a visual identity to European Union organic products. This allows consumers to identify organic products and assists farmers in marketing them throughout the EU. The organic logo can only be used on products certified as organic by an authorized control body. This means they have met stringent conditions for production, processing, transportation, and storage.
- On the labels of organic products, the place of cultivation or rearing must always be specified. It is possible to indicate the country or region (e.g., AGRICULTURE ITALY or AGRICULTURE ITALY/MARCHES) if at least 95% of the raw materials comprising the product are from the same country or region of origin.
- The label also displays the code assigned by the competent authority to the control body responsible for verifying that the product complies with EU regulations. In Italy, these bodies must be recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (MASAF).