The British Retail Consortium has criticised European Commission proposals to inspect and accredit retail outlets which sell organic food.

BRC food policy director Richard Ali said the plans to police organic integrity more closely “would create unnecessary bureaucracy that would add costs for retailers and impact on prices”.

The amendment to article eight of EC Regulation 2092/91 could come into effect in the UK from 2005. It proposes wholesalers, retailers and caterers dealing in organic products should undergo inspections from organic accreditation bodies.

The Soil Association said inspections could cost around £300 per outlet.

DEFRA head of organic farming Andrew Eldridge has written to organic inspection bodies, the NFU, the Food and Drink Federation, IGD, the Provision Trade Federation and the Food Standards Agency to gather opinion.

He added: “In principle, we take the view it is sensible to include in consultation wholesalers and those who are in some way processing an organic product, for example instore bakeries and delis.”

He has asked the industry if it wants: DEFRA to argue in Europe that matters should be left to national law; exemption of businesses which only deal in packed organics; or all outlets trading in organics being subject to inspection.

Another proposed amendment of the regulation is already causing controversy among bio yogurt manufacturers in the UK (The Grocer, June 28, p14). It proposes a ban on the use of the terms ‘bio’ and ‘eco’ on non-organic produce from July 2006, as the terms mean organic abroad.

The Provision Trade Federation now hopes UK bio yogurt producers can avoid expensive relaunches.

The PTF has told DEFRA it believes the regulation could be read to exclude ‘bio’ and ‘eco’ from the ban where they clearly do not refer to organic methods.

A spokeswoman said: “The term ‘bio’ is understood in the UK to mean live yogurt. No-one thinks it means organic and we have told DEFRA so.”
Anne Bruce