New rules for electronic certification of EU organic imports

New EU rules introducing a system of electronic certification for imported organic products have been published by the European Commission and will be applied in 6 months.

Following recommendations from the Court of Auditors and a request from Member State Ministers in 2011 to address concerns about monitoring the movements of organic products and the consistency of import checks, the new rules are aimed at improving the traceability of organic products (thereby enhancing food safety provisions) and reducing potential fraud. The changes are also expected to reduce the administrative burden for operators and authorities, and provide much more comprehensive statistical data on organic imports.

Speaking today, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "I warmly welcome this modernisation of our system for monitoring organic imports. This will not only serve as a considerable simplification for operators and thereby facilitate trade, but also further boost consumer confidence in organic products."

In practical terms, the changes will require the addition of these import certificates into the Trade Control & Expert System (TRACES) – the existing EU electronic system for tracking movements of food products across the EU. Accessible 24/7, the TRACES system has been shown to facilitate trade by enabling trade partners and competent authorities to easily obtain information on the movements of their consignments, and speeding up administrative procedures, while also facilitating the rapid reaction to health threats by tracing the movements of consignments and facilitating the risk management of rejected consignments.

After the entry into application on 19 April 2017, the rules foresee a 6-month transitional period during which both paper and e-certification will be used. From 19 October 2017 organic imports will be covered only by e-certification.

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