Compliance With Revised Canadian Organic Standards and Permitted Substances Lists Now Required

December 20, 2016 | Categories: Certification, Industry Updates, Organic

As of November 26, 2016, certified organizations must be in compliance with the latest version of these Canadian organic standards:

The standards were revised November 25, 2015, with a one-year phase-in period for compliance. The standards were updated to remove duplicate and confusing entries, to reflect current practices in organic production, to streamline information and to add illustrative examples and more clarity.

Note that as of December 2016, these standards are undergoing an additional revision in order to clarify the scope of certain clauses. These revised versions are expected to be published by the Canada General Standards Board in early 2017. In light of these anticipated revisions, starting on November 25, 2016 until the publication of the 2017 amendments, QAI will classify any audit findings to the revised clauses as opportunities for improvement rather than non-compliances, and will reclassify any pending non-compliances issued against affected clauses of the 2015 version as opportunities for improvement. Please see CFIA’s memo for the affected standards clauses.

As a reminder, the major changes for processors and handlers effective November 26, 2016 (not including the revisions expected in 2017) were:

  • Hand sanitizers were added to the scope of the Canadian standard. If you use hand sanitizer and there is contact between hands and organic food, the ingredients of the sanitizer must be listed on Table 7.3 of the PSL (these are the substances permitted for use without a removal event such as alcohol).
  • Chlorine compounds (bleach) used as a sanitizer may be used up to maximum label rates provided that you can confirm removal prior to organic contact. Rinsing with water or evaporation are both considered acceptable “removal events.”
  • For chlorine compounds in contact with food, it was clarified that the concentration can be no higher than the level permitted in drinking water.
  • Vitamins and minerals shall be used only “if legally required.” Previously, products could be fortified if a dietary or nutritional deficiency could be demonstrated. In the 2016 renewal, confirmation will be needed that any added vitamins or minerals are legally required by the relevant legislation in place for your product (e.g. the Food and Drug Regulations). Note there are a few exceptions, including fortification of plant-based beverages (soy milk, almond milk, etc.), cheese and butter substitutes.
  • For ingredients such as citric acid, ascorbic acid and xanthan gum which are the product of a microbial process, there is a new requirement. While the microbe itself must be non-GMO, now the growth media must also be checked to ensure it is not derived from GMO sources. If you cannot find a version of this ingredient produced with non-GMO growth media, a commercial availability search will need to be documented and submitted for review.
  • For microbes (or microbial products) that aren’t purified and include some of the growth media (such as dairy cultures), the growth media ingredients will need to be listed on the PSL processing tables (6.3 – 6.5). Any other ingredients used in microbial preparations (such as carriers or anti-caking agents) must also be listed in Tables 6.3-6.4.
  • The revised Permitted Substances Lists now clearly indicate ingredients for which a commercial availability search is required – including yeast, glycerol, gelatin, lecithin, waxes and meat curing agents (such as cultured celery powder).

For further information, please see these documents or contact your certification project manager: