China tightens organic certification leeway
Many fresh produce exporters to China may soon need to remove the word "organic" from their labels as the country ramps up enforcement of existing regulations, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
A USDA Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report said many U.S. companies had already started to pursue Chinese organic certification, but it is a 'very expensive endeavour'.
"The Chinese Organic Standards law states that food products cannot be called organic in any language on the package unless they are certified to Chinese organic standards," the report said.
"In the past, this statement was not enforced as long as the back label printed in Chinese language did not mention the product is organic.
"If Chinese authorities start to routinely enforce this law, U.S. organic producers will be required to obtain Chinese certification or remove/cover any reference to "organic" from their products".
The report said the situation is changing towards stricter enforcement, and organic growers intending to access the market would likely need to obtain Chinese certification, unless the current rules are modified or China recognizes U.S. organic standards.
It is estimated organic certification under Chinese standards costs US$3,200 plus airfare and lodging, and products must be re-certified every year.
"The enforcement of the regulations is very complicated and involves several government agencies. At the port it is CIQ's (China's Inspection and Quarantine) responsibility to stop products that do not have a Chinese organic certification.
"After importation, even if the products are on the store shelf, the local Business Bureau can remove products that do not meet standards and rules."