Organic certification body Soil Association has thoroughly review the current organic standards in a bid to ensure organic farmers and processors can ‘provide the highest level of protection for the environment, food and livestock in the most straightforward way possible’, says the organic certifier.
The Association sought input from members of the public as well as farmers, expert advisers and figures in the food industry. These rounds of public consultation took place in 2016, leading to an outcome which will see standards becomes easier for both licensees and the public to ‘use and understand’.
Planning to further strengthen certain areas of its remit – such as animal welfare – the Association will bring the updated standards into effect from spring 2019.
Key changes for farmers will include:
- natural cover required on poultry ranges;
- strengthened approach to antibiotics, banning the use of colistin;
- removal of ‘unnecessary barriers and bureaucracy’ for veterinary medicines;
- CCTV in abattoirs;
- slimmed down documents with less repetition;
- more freedom to innovate, focusing on goal, not procedure.
Dr Benjamin Dent, chair of the SA Standards Board, describes the process as an ‘extremely thorough, evidence-based review’. “Our expert committees and consultations have ensured the new standards are practical for our licensees and encourage them to innovate, and that where we are more demanding than the regulations, that this is justified in terms of enhanced impacts on animal welfare and the environment.”
Launch of new marketing materials
In a distinct step, the Association has also produced a new set of marketing materials and called on organic box schemes to sign up to its improved veg box finder in the New Year.
Soil Association Certification said it wanted to give organic producers and box schemes “a helping hand” by launching its ‘Fresh Produce’ campaign for the second year. It has produced new marketing materials for both digital and print that are available free of charge to all organic growers.
The organisation is also encouraging companies to sign up to its upgraded online veg box finder, which helps shoppers find organic, Soil Association-certified veg box schemes local to them.