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Residue testing requirements established in the US

Time:2013-5-2 Hits:4839

As of the first of January this year, all National Organic Program (NOP) accredited certifying agents are now required to test samples from at least 5% of the operations they certify for residues of prohibited pesticides. In the NOP’s Organic Integrity Quarterly newsletter, Deputy Administrator, Miles McEvoy, explains that, ‘While testing has always been a part of organic product oversight and is required by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the new program specifies a minimum amount of testing that must occur.’

Before the new rule came into force, residue testing was used as a means of investigating complaints and suspected cases of contamination, whether intentional or unintentional, as in the case of pesticide drift onto organic operations. This practice will continue under the new rule, but now certifiers must additionally institute procedures for risk-based as well as random sampling of their clients in order to meet the yearly minimum of 5% of their operations. If a product is found to contain more than 5% of the tolerance level for a given pesticide set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it cannot be soldas organic. Further investigation into the source of the contamination may be conducted as well, depending on the circumstances.

Organic is a process-based standard, and therefore residue testing cannot be used to determine whether or not a given operation is using organic practices. McEvoy also cautions that, ‘Since there will be wide variety in how organic operations are selected and which tests are conducted, test results will not be used to make broad conclusions about a specific commodity or category of products.’

A full package of information has been provided to help certifiers and inspectors follow proper procedures.Tasks covered include selecting which operations to sample, collecting and sending samples to an approved laboratory, and keeping records of the results. Results of all residue testing must be made available to the public on request. Samples collected may be raw or processed agricultural products as well as soil, water, waste, seeds or plant tissue. Tests may be performed to detect any prohibited substances, including prohibited pesticides, arsenic or other contaminant metals, synthetic hormones, or antibiotics (except in apples or pears). A test may also be used to detect genetic engineered organisms; however, the NOP does not specify a tolerance level for contamination. As long as the producer or handler has followed the rules and taken measures to protect organic products from contamination or commingling, the presence of some genetic contamination will not prevent sale of the product as organic.

Links to resources that summarise the new requirements – describe how samples should be collected; describe laboratory requirements; provide a target list of prohibited pesticides; and clarify how to respond to positive residues – can be found in Organic Integrity Quarterly, January 2013.


                                                                                                                                                       (Source: TOS 144 April 2013)


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