EU auditors: ‘Organic controls have improved, but more can be done’

The control system for organic products in the EU has improved in recent years, but challenges remain, according to a new report by the European Court of Auditors. Further action is needed on remaining weaknesses in the member states and on the supervision of imports as well as on product traceability, the auditors have found.

The prices consumers pay for products carrying the EU organic label are sometimes significantly higher than for conventional products. Therefore, a robust control system is essential to provide assurance to consumers that the organic products they buy are truly organic.

Rapid growth
The EU organic sector has grown rapidly over recent years. The auditors followed up on their previous report from 2012 and assessed whether the EU’s control system for the production, processing, distribution and import of organic products now provides greater assurance to consumers.

The auditors found that the control system has improved and their previous recommendations have been generally acted upon. Member states audited last time have taken action to improve their control systems and the commission resumed its own control visits and has now visited most member states.

Nikolaos Milionis, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, commented on the findings: “When consumers buy organic products, they rely on the fact that organic rules have been applied at every stage of the supply chain, whether they are produced in the EU or imported. The commission should work with the member states to remedy remaining weaknesses and make the control system as effective as possible – this is crucial to maintaining consumer confidence in the EU organic label.”

Imports
This audit covered the import regimes more extensively. In 2018, the EU imported organic products from over 100 third countries. The auditors found that the commission has started visiting control bodies in the countries exporting organic products to the EU.

According to agriland.ie, they also identified weaknesses in the member states’ checks on incoming consignments and found that, in some member states, the control bodies’ checks on importers were still incomplete.


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