Processing of organic foods

Clear requirements for organic products

Consumers should be confident that the ingredients in an organic product is indeed organic and that during the process of manufacturing, no method is used which is in conflict with the organic ideas about safe and healthy food.
Consequently, the companies processing organic products must comply with a set of clear rules.

In the Food Administration's Guide on organic food, it is stated that an organic product must not:

  • Contain genetically modified ingredients or ingredients produced using genetic modification.
  • Have been exposed to ionizing (bactericidal) irradiation.
  • Contain additives other than the 38 that are specifically permitted in organic products. Among others are coloring and sweeteners generally not allowed. In comparison, the list of additives that can be used in conventional food contains approximately 350 substances.

All organic

Basically, all the ingredients derived from agriculture must be organic. In practice, there are still difficulties in obtaining all raw materials in organic form. This could for example be the case with certain spices.
Consequently, a company is allowed to use up to five percent non-organic ingredients in the manufacturing of an organic product.

 

Gentle treatment of the products

Processing of organic products must be done as gently as possible, is the attitude of the organic movement. It will provide the most natural products. So even though the state and the EU rules do not require it, there is very often provided a gentle treatment in the production.
For example, most organic milk in Denmark is not subjected to homogenization, a process which merges the natural fat particles into pieces.
Furthermore, some organic dairies have arranged the production process in such a way that the milk is pumped around as little as possible.


Comprehensive control

Companies processing and/or packaging organic products are subject to extensive state control. This control applies regardless of whether they are a small local bakery which will bake a single type of organic bread, or whether it is a big slaughterhouse processing many different types of meat.

Even before a company begins to work with organic production, it must notify the local Food Administration Office (which belongs to the Ministry for Food and Agriculture) that it will start production.
The notification must describe which organic foods the company is planning to process and how it will do so.

Based on the notification and usually after a visit to the company, the local Food Administration Office prepares something called an “Ecology Report”. In the report, it is described in detail what specific requirements the company must meet to comply with the organic rules. 


Two things are in focus in the ”Ecology Report”

The first is the requirement to the bookkeeping concerning the organic raw materials coming into the production and organic products that go out of the production. There must be an enclosure to any purchase of ingredients and their ecological status must be clearly documented with verification documents from the supplier. Separate records of sales of organic finished products must be kept.

The second is that the production of organic and conventional products to be sharply separated from each other.

It can either be accomplished by physical separation of the two kinds of production takes place in their premises. It will often be the case in larger firms. Or it may be separation in time. For example, if the local bakery starts the day by baking organic bread and then turning to the conventional products afterwards.
The requirements for separation are such that a butcher will have to clean and disinfect a knife before he cut in organic produce, if he has previously used it for conventional meat.

At least once a year meetings of a supervisor from the local Food Administration Office will visit the company and perform a thorough review of everything that has to do with the organic processing. It is must be verified that the requirements of the Ecology Report are followed.

A part of the control is the cross-check of the company's data compared with those of other companies. For example, the information from the bakery about the purchase of organic flour will be compared with information on the mill’s sales to him.

If a company violates the requirements of the “Ecology Report”, following penalties will apply:

Small errors and sloppiness: The obligation to rectify the situation.
Major errors and omissions: Injunctions and fine.
Gross or repeated negligence and outright cheating: Fines and bans on trade with organic products.

Companies processing and/or packaging organic products are subject to extensive state control. This control applies regardless of whether they are a small local bakery which will bake a single type of organic bread, or whether it is a big slaughterhouse processing many different types of meat. Even before a company begins to work with organic production, it must notify the local Food Administration Office (which belongs to the Ministry for Food and Agriculture) that it will start production. The notification must describe which organic foods the company is planning to process and how it will do so. Based on the notification and usually after a visit to the company, the local Food Administration Office prepares something called an “Ecology Report”. In the report, it is described in detail what specific requirements the company must meet to comply with the organic rules.