New paper examines steps for organic conversion

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic certification, Organic food

Converting food production to organic may not be as difficult as
some may think, according to a new paper that examines necessary
steps in the conversion process.

Due to be published in the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA) technical quarterly, the paper states that the necessary foundations are already in place to allow for the organic certification process to take place with limited resources for the applicant.

These include an extensive network of programs established by companies or growers to address traceability, sanitation practices, pest control and the prevention of commingling.

These basic requirements for any food producing business include Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP), Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOP's) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's).

"These programs in combination with an Organic Control Plan can allow for growers, processors and handlers to become certified for the production of organic materials with some minor document additions,"​ said the author of the paper, Brad Rush.

Manager of quality, health, safety and environmental certified organic inspector at Briess Malt & Ingredients Company, Rush said his presentation is designed to give companies a basic understanding of what organics are, and to guide them through the organic certification process.

This process begins with making an organic application with a certification agency, which is followed by an in-house screening by the agency, together with additional questionnaires. Once all documentation is satisfactory, an inspector is assigned to conduct a site visit, who then submits an inspection report to the certification agency. This is reviewed by the agency, which asks for any non-compliance issues to be addressed, before an organic certification certificate is issued.

According to Rush, the primary role of an organic inspector is to verify the accuracy of the information provided by the applicant, and to make sure that the systems are in place to comply with the organic standards as defined by the USDA National Organics Program (NOP).

This will involve the evaluation of documents that pertain to the flow of product throughout the production process, including purchasing records such as invoices and purchasing contracts in addition to the supplier's organic certificates.

Recipe and formulation sheets are also reviewed in order to verify what and how much of an ingredient is added to a product.

As well as production documentation, inspectors also pay special attention to sanitation and pest control practices with regards to chemicals used and the SSOP's. This is to ensure that there is no use of non-approved synthetic chemicals for cleaning, boiler additives and pest control practices.

In addition, in order for a processed product to be labeled as an organic product there are certain processing conditions that must be complied with.

As well as using all organic materials, the organic standards require that only mechanical, thermal and biological processes be used in organic processing facilities.

The extraction process is very limited to only include extraction with water, ethanol, and natural oils. The standards established for processors are mainly in place to protect the integrity of products from commingling with conventional products, contamination from sanitation and pest control chemicals, and other non-approved organic materials.

The organic regulations set forward by a private, government or private-government partnership also state what can be used as processing aids and still maintain an organic label. In addition, there are regulations that state what the allowable amounts of non-organic materials are to still allow for an organic claim.

In general, only products containing 100 percent organic materials qualify for a "100% Organic" label claim. If the finished product has up to 5 percent non-organic materials the product can only be labeled as "Organic". If it contains at least 70 percent organic materials the product can be labeled as "Made with Organic".

The information provided on product labels also needs to be approved by an inspector, who will focus on the use of the three label claims.

In his paper, Rush also provides a general overview of the different regulatory agencies, and the different organic regulations and standards set out in different countries.

To access the paper "Understanding Organics"​, click here​.

Related topics: Suppliers, Food safety and labeling

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