Proposals to harmonise certification will "improve the integrity" of organic produce, says Defra

A new set of guidelines intended to improve the inspection of organic produce has been put forward for consultation by Defra.

The new rules are an attempt to bring into line the various bodies which approve organic products through different testing procedures.

According to Defra the changes will ensure high standards and "improve the integrity" of organic food, ensuring they are free of GM products and pesticide residues.

Under the guidelines, producers will be expected to alert control bodies if they suspect any contaminants may have affected their produce.

Should produce be found to fall short of organic standards, there will also be a standardised appeal procedure, which growers must initiate within 48 hours of notification.

The proposals also suggest the setting of "trigger levels", which if exceeded by a contaminant would lead to automatic investigation. This could either be a standard level –  e.g. 0.01 mg/kg as in Germany – or it could vary according to the substance involved.

Tomato consultant Paul Challenor said: "I think some kind of standardised procedure is a very good idea. I’m pleased we’ve got an opportunity to comment on these proposals."

The consultation on the Draft UK guidance on the testing procedure for prohibited substances in organic products ends on 21 December. See the Defra website for details of how to participate.

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