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TÜV SÜD survey:

What do German consumers think when they see “organic”?

Organic products are selling like hotcakes. In 2015, the sales generated in Germany rose roughly by 11% compared to the previous year. However, implementation of the EU regulations on organic production varies widely between the individual EU members. This is why the EU wants to adopt a new set of organic production and labeling regulations. But what do consumers associate with the word “organic” on packaging? A recent TÜV SÜD survey provides more information. 

Not all consumers associate the same characteristics with the label “organic” on food. According to the TÜV SÜD survey, one-fifth of consumers think products do not have to meet clear criteria when the label “organic” is used. However, most consumers associate the word “organic” with lower use of herbicides, pesticides and animal medication in food production. Furthermore, some consumers associate traditional forms of cultivation or animal care with the “organic” label.

While 13% of the respondents associate the word with the prevention of environmental pollution. Only 11% of the respondents think about chemical residue thresholds for organic product. According to the survey, consumers tend to associate the word “organic” mainly with the type and manner of production, rather than with compliance to specific thresholds.

There’s organic … and organic
The implementation of the current EU organic production regulations dates back to 1992, and differs widely between the different member states. These differences include numerous exceptions in production requirements, for instance the type of feed supplied to farms. Now organic production has been defined as sustainable farming that complies with precise local rules and annual checks. In the original draft of 2014, the specific thresholds for non-authorized residues would have changed the definition of the term “organic”, by placing a much greater focus on product specifications. “Compliance with these threshold regulations does not necessarily demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the organic regulations concerning the food production process. However, it is very important to consumers,” states Dr Andreas Daxenberger, food expert at TÜV SÜD, while referring to the results of the current survey.

State of the negotiations
After the renewed start of negotiations in June 2015, the draft of the regulation was revised once again in response to numerous objections. The EU decided not to introduce residue thresholds for non-authorized substances. However, the special requirements for the checks of the organic production and compliance with the production standards will remain a part of the regulations. In addition, an annual, on-site inspection will be mandatory for organic farms. The new draft also includes new practice-focused transition and production requirements for organic farms. The negotiations of this compromise proposal are scheduled to be completed at the end of 2016. After that, the EU Parliament and the EU Council will have to decide on this proposal.

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