In 2018, the European Commission, together with Europol, decided to launch a targeted action on organics in the framework of the OPSON VIII operation. The aim of this operation was to protect the reputation of the EU organic logo, and guarantee the confidence European consumers rightly have in it. It is important to stress that organic fraud does not present food safety risks and, if discovered, products that are non-compliant with the organic rules are downgraded and sold as conventional ones.
The action aimed to identify vulnerable points within the supply chain and focused on complex international supply chains. It also investigated suspicions of fraud, targeted false certification, concentrated on food and feed in significant quantities, mostly imported and destined for redistribution under the EU organic label.
As a result of the action, a number of administrative and criminal proceedings were initiated, products were seized, people were arrested and operators sanctioned. Investigations are still ongoing and further results can be expected in the coming months.
A growing demand for organic products over the last few years as well as a rapidly increasing share of organic production and retail sale in the EU creates increasing risks and challenges for the integrity of the organic food supply chain.
In addition to high-scale actions like this one, the Commission has put measures in place to strengthen the control system on the long term, for instance by developing the Electronic Certificate of Inspection in the framework of the TRACES system which had substantially improved the traceability of the organic products imported from non-EU countries. The new organic regulation, entering into application in 2021, together with the new Official Control Regulation, besides introducing the compliance to EU rules for imported products, will also reinforce the controls and enhance possible actions against fraudsters. In particular, the powers of the Commission in intervening directly when a suspicion of fraud is detected will be reinforced.
Every year, the Commission carries out an in depth assessment of the Control Bodies authorised to certify goods. The same Control Bodies are submitted to an audit programme by the Commission services.
For the last few years, the Commission has issued guidelines on the imports of certain product categories, considered as a higher risk from any major producing country. These guidelines focus on an enhanced traceability of the products and an extra control on operators through additional inspections at the producer level and by additional sampling at border control.
Moreover, together with Member States, the Commission carries out a regular monitoring of irregularities that are notified by Member States in a specific IT tool set up for this purpose.
21 June 2019