Organic farms are only certified after they have been operating according to organic principles for three years. However, the use of the word ‘organic’ is not regulated in Australia, so it is *important* to make sure that products you buy come from *certified* growers and producers.
As recently as 2009, a standard (guidelines and rules) did not exist for domestic and imported organic foods. This led to a misrepresentation of the word ‘organic’ in the Australian domestic food market.
Two key standards now govern the production, processing and labelling of organic food in Australia. These are:
The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (for exported foods)
The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products (for domestic and imported foods).
These standards provide an agreed set of procedures to be followed in organic food production. This helps to ensure the integrity and traceability of an organic food product from ‘paddock to plate’. The standards include requirements for production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic products in Australia.
While it is mandatory for exported organic produce to be certified and meet the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, the Australian standard (for domestic and imported foods) is not mandated, and certification is voluntary. Its purpose is to assist the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC – the national consumer regulatory authority) to ensure that claims made about organic and biodynamic products are not false or misleading.
‘Organic-certified produce’ means the food was grown, harvested, stored and transported without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation or fumigants.
How to identify food certified as organic
Suggestions for making sure the food you are buying is organically grown include:
If you are buying from an organic retailer, check for the Organic Retailers’ and Growers’ Association of Australia (ORGAA) notice, which should be prominently displayed
Choose foods with the label ‘certified organic’ from one of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) accredited certifying organisations
Check packaging for the grower’s name and certification number
Do not be fooled by packaging that claims the produce is ‘natural’ or ‘chemical free’ if the proper certification labelling is not displayed.
Accredited certifying organisations
Seven organisations are classified by DAFF as organic certifiers:
AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)
Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Certified Organic (NASAA Certified Organic)
Organic Food Chain (OFC)
Safe Food Production Queensland (SFQ)
Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers (TOP).
Some of the certifying organisations have their own standards in addition to the National Standard.
Certified Organic is a guarantee of food safety and purity. The farmers who are certified are following sustainable farming practices so by buying organic you strengthen the industry and helping work towards a sustainable society.