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Indian organic inspection bodies threatened with withdrawal of approval

by Gudrun Ambros (comments: 0)

A variety of Indian spices
Organic spices from India could become a scarce commodity if the inspection bodies lose their accreditation. Picture © AdobeStock / chamillew

In 2020, pesticides were found in organic sesame seeds from India. The EU Commission is now considering withdrawing the approval of four organic inspection bodies. The umbrella organization of inspection bodies takes a critical view of this.

Soon, the European Commission will decide whether the organic certification bodies Control Union Certifications (CUC), Ecocert SA, Lacon and One Cert International will be removed from the list of authorities and inspection bodies authorized to certify agricultural food and feed from India as organic. Background: in the fall of 2020, contamination of ethylene oxide (ETO) had been found in conventional and organic sesame seeds from India, and later in other foods.

ETO is a disinfectant and pesticide that has been banned in the EU since 1979. It is considered carcinogenic and mutagenic. Food products have been recalled due to contamination findings. For food considered to be particularly at risk, for example ginger, guar gum, sesame or turmeric, certificates of analysis from India must be submitted and analyses are mandatory upon import. In addition, importers or processing companies have these foods consistently tested for contamination.

Umbrella organization criticizes approach

Dr. Jochen Neuendorff, member of the board of directors of the European umbrella organization of organic inspection bodies EOCC, is critical of the fact that organic inspection bodies are to lose their approval for food and feed from India. He says it is right that organic inspection bodies must do their job and check whether a product complies with organic rules. These do not permit the use of ETO. "In this case, maximum levels under food law had been exceeded. The product was no longer fit for consumption."

But neither the responsible Indian nor the responsible EU food control authorities would have objected to the contaminated goods. Otherwise, products contaminated with ETO would not have entered the market in the first place. "In the first place, the official controls did not take effect," Neuendorff notes. But with the threatened withdrawal of approval for organic inspection bodies, the buck would only be passed to the organic players.

Supply bottlenecks feared

If the EU Commission removes the four organic certification bodies in question from the approval list, this will not mean the end of organic food from India. This is because there are other inspection bodies that can take on such tasks. However, wholesalers and manufacturers such as GEPA, Arche Naturprodukte or Heuschrecke are expecting supply bottlenecks that may not be able to be bridged, "especially for Demeter products," fears Ursula Stübner of Heuschrecke.

Some Indian organic cooperatives have already commissioned new inspection bodies, others are ready to do so. Ute Schulze of Asia specialist Arche Naturprodukte would also be willing to look for suppliers from other countries. "Currently, we have to be flexible to continue to ensure the high quality of our products." The challenges currently facing the organic food industry are great, he said. Terrasana has postponed the launch of a range of curry sauces from India planned for October in light of the uncertain situation.


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