Industry to clamp down on organic labelling fraud

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic food Uk

The food industry must rapidly stamp out any fraudulent claims for
organic food, if integrity and consumer trust is to be maintained.

Food manufacturers continue to enjoy strong demand for their organic food products.

Annual retail sales of organic foodstuffs have soared tenfold to top €1.51 billion in UK alone in the past decade, encouraging more growers and food makers to get involved.

But a report on Sunday in the UK's The Observer​ newspaper claims that there are "disturbing levels of fraud within the industry."

Claims such as these could erode consumer confidence and eat into the buoyant growth figures.

According to the paper's investigation, following what is believed to have been the UK's first concerted investigation into organic food fraud by trading standards officers, farmers, retailers and food inspectors have disclosed a raft of malpractice.

"Trading standards teams across the UK told The Observer they were aware consumers' concerns about fraud were increasing,"​ reports the paper.

Fraudulent moves included food labelling offences and using organic certification without the right accreditation.

There are well over 4000 organic farmers and food processors in the UK working in a European market currently worth about €20.7 billion.

Commenting on The Observer article, a spokesperson for the Soil Association, the UK's leading accreditation body, told that "tougher moves by trading standards and environmental health officers is better for genuine producers and organic consumers."

The body carries out once a year inspection visits - about 4000 - as well as spot checks, on its licensees.

Firms wanting to use the organic logo have had to fulfill a host criteria prior to obtaining the logo license. And the spokesperson claims the 32 inspectors ensure they continue to meet the demands of the association.

"But firms selling their foods without our license are outside of our remit,"​ he added.

Rules that govern the labelling of organic foods come from Regulation EC2092/91, and are, as for all labels, designed to ensure that consumers are not misled.

For a product to be termed 'organic' it must meet the standards of an approved independent control body, which has inspected all aspects of its production.

Labels must indicate the organic certification body with which the processor or packer is registered. The rules are the same for manufactured foods with one or more organic ingredients.

The EU regulation recognises that it is not yet possible to make products entirely from organic ingredients.

As a result the manufacturer can use up to 5 per cent of certain non-organic food ingredients and still label the product as organic. However, genetically-modified ingredients and artificial food additives are never allowed in organic foods.

For foods which contain 70 to 95 per cent organic ingredients the word organic appears only in the ingredients list and as a description on the front of label to show the percentage of ingredients which are organic.

Related topics Food safety and labeling

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