Organic Produce Certifications – European Commission’s decision to delist Five Certifications Bodies from India over high levels of ETO
ETO level higher than permissible limits – Reason for Delisting
The European Commission has decided to derecognise five certifying bodies (CBs) from giving clearance or ratifying exports of Indian organic products for their failure to meet the ethylene oxide (ETO) norms in consignments, particularly sesame (til/gingelly).
A draft of the European Union Committee on Organic Production (COP) on derecognising the five CBs or certifying agencies was issued in October for comments from various stakeholders. These comments were taken up last week before it took a final call.
With all the European Union (EU) members supporting the move, the COP decided to derecognise the five CBs – four from the EU and one from the US – on November 30.
The decision comes despite hectic lobbying by the EU, the US trade bodies and consultants against any action against the five. Instead, they sought action against the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
The EU derecognised the five CBs, which certified over 80 per cent of the organic products exports to the EU, as they had certified some 90 shipments against which the EU Organic Farm Information System (OFIC) issued notifications for ETO level being excess than permitted level 0.1mg/kg.
The five CBs are ECOCERT India Pvt Ltd, CU Inspections Ltd, Indian Organic Certification Agency (Indocert), Lacon Quality Certifications Pvt Ltd – all based in EU – and the US-based OneCert International Private Ltd.
The blacklisting will come into force from January 1, 2022, and will be valid until APEDA removes them from the “high risk category” list they have been placed after being found at fault.
APEDA, which is the competent authority in India to supervise organic certification processes, has also suspended OneCert’s accreditation for one year, while ECOCERT, CU Inspections, IndoCert have been barred from registering any new processor or exporter.
In addition, APEDA has also asked Aditi Organic Certifications to not register any new processor or exporter. The five CBs have also been imposed ₹2-5 lakh penalties.
In its draft, the EU COP said, “Since October 2020, a large number of consignments totalling thousands of tonnes allegedly organic sesame seed contaminated with ethylene oxide have been imported from that third country, in particular from operators controlled by the control bodies supervised by India…”
ETO is considered carcinogenic for humans by the EU and a few other countries, and it is strictly monitored to ensure that shipment of any product conforms to the norms. In the case of India, the presence of the chemical exceeded far more than the permitted level, which the EU felt posed a health risk to its consumers.
The EU derecognition of the five agencies also means that their names should not appear in APEDA’s list of CBs recognised by it. The derecognition is unlikely to affect exports of organic products – as feared by the EU and US trade bodies – from India as there are 28 other CBs, Indian and foreign, that can fill in the void.
Global focus on Product/Service Quality and Safety has undergone a dramatic change after the pandemic crisis across the globe. Quality and Safety of Global Public Goods call for International Alignment of Standards, Certifications, Testing norms etc to ensure that Consumers Health, Safety and Wellbeing is not compromised.
Responsible Production is the Global Call of Action and the it’s the Responsibility of the Global Markets to ensure availability of Responsible Supply Chain as a Consumer Welfare measure. Global economy is moving towards Borderless Economy and many countries will have market access to global markets due to supply chain shortages. The countries which assure Authentic and Responsible Supply Chains will have strong acceptance across the globe.
We, in India too are seeing a huge surge in exports as well as in imports of Products and Services and how do we ensure that Consumers are assured of Quality and Safe Products and Services in domestic as well as in International Markets.
European Union is the largest market for Indian Exporters and businesses strive hard to create market space for their products and services. Earning and Retaining Customer Loyalty, Recognition and Reputation at market place is not an easy ride for any business. Its the reasonability and duty of industry bodies, industry associations to work in coordination with Regulators like APEDA and ensure that wrong trade practices by businesses, Certification Agencies should be questioned.
Regulators, Accreditation Bodies, Certification Agencies, Industry , Consultants are the key stakeholders to this process and all have to work in alignment , incordination to ensure that Responsible Supply Chains are made available for domestic as well as for global markets.
Issuance of Certifications is an Assurance to the market place that Products that are Certified for Quality are Safe for Consumption. When this process gets compromised, consumers faith and trust on Quality will erode.