After a six-month transition period during which both paper and e-certification will be accepted, only electronic certification will be used from 19 October 2017 onwards. The e-system will be integrated into the Commission’s existing electronic Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) for tracking movements of food products across the EU.
The changes were prompted by recommendations from the European Court of Auditors and a request from member states to address concerns about monitoring the movements of organic products and the consistency of import checks.
A spokesperson for sustainable business consultancy Ecovia Intelligence told FoodNavigator: “There have been some incidents in previous years whereby non-organic foods have been falsely labelled and marketed as organic foods. Whilst controls in Europe appear to be robust, there have been concerns about imported products.
“This new scheme aims to reduce fraud risks by providing greater transparency in the supply of organic products from non-EU countries. It also should reduce the level of bureaucracy (and paperwork) involved for tracking the movement of imported organic products.”
Commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan said the Commission’s commitment to stringent certification and inspection measures was an important component of Europe’s food safety standards.
“These high standards have allowed us to become the best address for food in the world, but we must always strive to find new and better ways to do even more. These new rules will improve the traceability of organic products, which is an important growing market," he said.
The Commission said the system will cut food fraud and reduce the administrative burden for operators and authorities.
It also said it will provide “much more comprehensive statistical data on organic imports”, although it is not yet clear in what form this will be.
If imports are given by product type and country of origins, it can be used to monitor import trends and identify gaps in the market, according to Ecovia Intelligence.
According to IFOAM EU, the umbrella organization representing the entire European organic production chain, the European organic market is growing at a rate of around 6 to 7% year-on-year compared with 2 to 3% for the non-organic grocery market.