China toughens organic rules

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United states

China toughens organic rules
Fresh produce exporters to China may need to remove the word ‘organic’ from their labels as the country ramps up enforcement in the organic sector, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

According to a USDA Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report released on may 29, US-based companies had already started to pursue Chinese organic certification, but it is has turned out to be 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.

The report pointed out that in the past, authorities did not enforce this statement, which was issued in 2005, as long as the back label printed in Chinese language did not mention the product is organic.

But the situation is changing as some Chinese officials in East China are now requiring not only that the word organic cannot appear on the Chinese language label, but that all other mention of the word organic must be marked out.

“If Chinese authorities start to routinely enforce this law, U.S. organic producers will be required to obtain Chinese certification or remove any reference to organic from their products,” ​it said, highlighting the stricter enforcement of the rule.

The report said that 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.

However, that could be a costly affair, the USDA estimated since 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 China’s Inspection and Quarantine responsibility to stop products that do not have a Chinese organic certification,”​ the report said.

“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,” ​it added.

Related topics: Policy, East Asia, China

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