Quality Partner is an independent certification and inspection body offering a range of different services.
Quality Partner is accredited by the relevant authorities to certify operators in the organic production sector:
- In Belgium (BE-BIO-03)
- In Luxembourg (LU-BIO-08)
Our multilingual staff carry out tests and inspections at every stage of the organic production process – from preparation to distribution:
- Producers (including entities processing their own production)
- Preparers (canning, processing, packaging and labelling changes)
- Importers (products imported from outside the European Union)
- Exporters (products exported from outside the European Union)
- Retailers (sales outlets)
- Hospitality, catering and mass catering
In Belgium and Luxembourg, these tests and inspections are designed to check for compliance with European regulations and regional decrees and regulations.
More information about the general principles of organic farming regulations:
- for primary production click here.
How much does organic production certification cost?
- Preparers, Distributors, Importers and Exporters
- Retailers (sales outlets)
- Hospitality, Catering and Mass Catering
- Ecogarantie label
As you know, legislation defines a number of different operator types.It is important to define the exact operations you perform on, or with, organic products. In many cases, one operator will fall into more than one of these categories.
- A Producer: an individual, corporate entity or association that grows, harvests and sells plant and animal products.
- A Processor: a preparer that purchases and processes agricultural ingredients and sells them as a finished or semi-finished products.
- A Repacker: a preparer that purchases products, changes the packaging or label, and sells the repackaged and relabelled products.
- A Distributor: an operator that purchases products and sells them without modifying the product, labelling or packaging. B2B sales only. The products may be sold in bulk or pre-packaged.
- A Retailer (sales outlet): an operator that sells products directly to the consumer or end user.
- In the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region, a testing and inspection exemption is granted to:
- Retailers selling pre-packaged products, provided that the operator in question does not produce or prepare such products, does not store them in any location other than in connection with its sales outlet, does not import organic products from a third country or from any producer converting to organic farming, does not subcontract these activities to a third party, and does not export products manufactured in accordance with the rules set out in the Regulations. A formal exemption request must be submitted to the relevant authority.
- Retailers buying less than €5,000 worth of non-packaged (bulk) products per year, provided that the operator in question does not produce or prepare such products, does not store them in any location other than in connection with its sales outlet, does not import organic products from a third country or from any producer converting to organic farming, does not subcontract these activities to a third party, and does not export products manufactured in accordance with the rules set out in the Regulations. A formal exemption request must be submitted to the relevant authority.
- In the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region, a testing and inspection exemption is granted to:
- An Exporter: an operator that exports outside the customs territory of the Community.
- An Importer: an individual or corporate entity within the Community that presents a consignment for release for free circulation into the Community, either in person or through a representative.
- A Hospitality, Catering or Mass Catering entity: an operator that prepares and sells, to the end consumer, organic products in restaurants, hospitals, canteens and similar establishments in the food outlet and end consumer supply sector.
As an operator, you have a number of different organic certification options to choose from.These certification types are based on:
- the European Union specifications only
- the European Union specifications plus the private Biogarantie®/Ecogarantie® specifications, where possible.
However, the European Union specifications do not cover all sectors. For example, the mass catering sector is not covered by the European regulations. In these specific cases, the relevant authorities may therefore recognise a set of private specifications. One such example is the Biogarantie® label, which is recognised by the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region as the mandatory certification framework in the “Catering” sector. The authorities have also made it possible for operators to opt not to use their Biogarantie® logo in their official communications, to avoid the additional costs associated with the use of this brand.
Biogarantie® is a Belgian label awarded to certified organic products. At present, the European regulation on organic production only covers agricultural ingredients, foodstuffs and livestock. The Biogarantie® specifications cover those areas omitted from the European regulation, such as textiles, mass catering and pet food.
Ecogarantie® is similar to Biogarantie® but is used for other product categories, such as mineral products and products made from organic ingredients. In the absence of official European standards for these product types, the Ecogarantie® label covers products such as cosmetics, cleaning products and sea salt.
Since 1 July 2010, the EU organic farming logo has been obligatory for all organic pre-packaged foodstuffs produced within the European Union.In certain cases, it is also possible to use it on a voluntary basis. This means that non pre-packaged organic products produced within the EU or organic products imported from third countries might display the new logo.
The term “pre-packaged foodstuff” means any single item for presentation as such to the end consumer and to mass caterers, consisting of a foodstuff and the packaging into which it was put before being offered for sale, whether such packaging encloses the foodstuff completely or only partially, but in any case in such a way that the contents cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging.
- Products containing at least 95% organic farming ingredients.
- Products containing less than 95% organic ingredients.
- Products containing a hunting or fishing product as the main ingredient.
The EU logo may not be used on the following products:
- products from producers converting to organic farming
- products containing less than 95% organic ingredients (the reference to the inspection body is still required; the list of ingredients must indicate the organic ingredients; the origin of the ingredients is optional)
- products containing a hunting or fishing product as the main ingredient, even if all the farming ingredients are organic
- products that are not covered by Regulation No. 834/2007, such as hunting and fishing products, cosmetics, cleaning products, textiles and certain dietary supplements
- Products covered exclusively by domestic standards (e.g. by-products from deer, ostriches, rabbits, snails, etc.).
The logo may be downloaded from the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/eu-policy/logo_en
The EU logo must comply with the model reproduced in Annex XI to Regulation No. 271/2010.
The reference colour in Pantone green no. 376 and green (50% cyan + 100% yellow), when a four-colour process is used.
Below are details of permitted exceptions to this rule:
- The logo can also be used in black and white, but only where it is not practicable to apply it in colour.
- If the background colour of the packaging or label is dark, the symbols may be used in negative format, using the background colour of the packaging or label.
- In certain specific situations where there are indications in a single colour on the packaging, the logo may be used in the same colour.
- Where the logo appears alongside domestic or private logos using a green colour other than the reference colour, the logo may be reproduced in the same green colour.
- The logo must have a height of at least 9 mm and a width of at least 13.5 mm.
- The height/width ratio must always be 1:1.5.
- Exceptionally, the minimum size may be reduced to a height of 6 mm for very small packages.
The logo may be used to advertise and publicise products that comply with the Regulation. For processed foodstuffs, it may only be used for products in the 95%+ category.
Association with other labels, such as Biogarantie®
The EU logo may be associated with graphical or textual elements referring to organic farming, under the condition that they do not modify or change the nature of the logo or any of the statutory indications (inspection body code and place of origin).
Indication of origin
Where the EU logo is used, an indication of origin must appear on the packaging, in the same visual field as the logo (directly under the reference to the inspection body). The term “origin” means the place in which the ingredients were produced. This indication must take one of the following forms:
- EU agriculture: where at least 98% of the ingredients (by weight) have been produced in the European Union
- Non-EU agriculture: where at least 98% of the ingredients (by weight) have been produced outside the European Union
- EU/non-EU agriculture: where part (>2%) of the ingredients have been produced in the European Union and part (>2%) outside the European Union.
The term “EU” or “non-EU” may be replaced or supplemented by a country name, only where all of the agricultural ingredients contained in the product have been produced in this country – e.g. “Belgian agriculture”, “Belgian EU agriculture”, “Costa Rica non-EU agriculture”, etc.
If the list of ingredients is provided in 3 languages, the origin of the ingredients must also be provided in 3 languages.
Certifying body code
This is the code of the inspection body responsible for certifying the operator that completed the final production or preparation operation.
Example: Quality Partner: code BE-BIO-03
Location of indications on the packaging
The inspection body logo and code and the indication of origin must appear in a clearly visible location and must be legible and indelible.
The code must appear in the same visual field as the EU logo, where this is used on the label.
The indication of origin must appear directly beneath the code. The indication of origin must not appear in a colour, size or lettering style that is more prominent than the sales description of the product.
When an operator commences organic production, it must complete the notification form and the cooperation contract and forward these to Quality Partner by email or post. This ensures that the operator has formally indicated its commitment to comply with the regulations, and that it has registered as a controlled operator.A model notification form for (producers) or (preparers, distributors, etc.) and a model contract are available here.
All operators are required to notify Quality Partner of any changes to the information provided in the initial notification (see minimum modifications of which Quality Partner must be notified).
Where the requesting party already has an existing contract with another approved and accredited organic production inspection body, it must be released from this contract first. The participant is contractually bound to notify the new inspection body of any sanctions that remain in force. Similarly, where an operator switches to a new inspection body, the previous inspection body must immediately forward, to the new inspection body, all information necessary to continue inspection activities for this operator.
Once we have received your documents, an experienced inspector specialising in your sector will contact you (if you have requested a scheduled audit) to arrange an appointment for your first audit. The first audit (accreditation audit) must take place within 30 days (60 days in the Flemish Region) of receipt of the notification document.
Minimum modifications of which Quality Partner must be notified
You must notify Quality Partner of any changes to the details mentioned on the activity notification form without delay, by re-submitting the activity notification form. As a minimum, we must be notified of the following changes:
- For producers
- change of storage, production, harvesting, processing and/or packaging location
- increase or decrease of surface area
- For preparers
- any change to the facilities (including new sites) used to process, package and store agricultural products, both before and after the operations
- any new product (new process, new recipe(s), new workshop or new procedure)
- any new label or changes to existing labels (documents, labels and packaging) mentioning organic production
- For importers
- any change to the premises used by the importer and for import activities, and any other facilities that the importer uses to store imported products
- For retailers
- any changes to the list of products sold.
This period applies to producers only.Conversion is a transitional period during which the operator commences the process towards organic production certification.
The conversion period commences upon receipt of the notification and contract by the inspection body.
The operator must notify the inspection body of its activities and undergo plot and livestock inspections through the conversion period. In other words, the operator must follow and apply organic production regulations once notification has been given.
During this period, the operator must adhere to all production requirements, but may not market its products as “organic”.
The standard conversion period is 24 months. For perennial crops, the conversion period is 36 months.
All harvests in the first 12 months following notification may be labelled as “product under conversion to organic farming”. If, at the end of the conversion period, there are no obstacles to the award of certification, the products may then be labelled as “organic products”.
It is important to remember that the organic certification relates to the soil itself. This means that each year’s harvest can only be certified as “organic” if the seeds are sown on soil that has already received organic certification.
There are several different types of audit:
- Accreditation inspection (first inspection)
- Main annual physical inspection
- Additional inspection
- Enhanced inspection (sanction scale)
Sample inspection (risk assessment)
In each case, the inspector asks the business manager all the applicable questions on the audit check-list and cross-references the answers against the documents and records in the participant’s possession.
During enhanced or administrative inspections, the inspector focuses exclusively on those questions where non-compliance has been observed.
The Inspector completes the check-list in accordance with Quality Partner’s internal procedure. If any instances of non-compliance are observed, these will be detailed in the non-compliance summary, two copies of which are completed and signed by the inspector and the operator at the end of the audit. Where applicable, you will also be notified of the sanction imposed on you, according to the nature of the problem and in accordance with applicable regulations.
The audit consists of three main parts:
- Visual inspection: during this part of the audit, the inspector assesses the site infrastructure and working methods for compliance. The inspector will be accompanied by the operator throughout the visual inspection, and the process must be completed in accordance with the company’s health and safety rules.
- Administrative and documentary inspection: during this part of the audit, the inspector assesses how the business is managed and checks all documentation relating to organic production for compliance. For example, the inspector will need to see the following documentation: Crop farming: crop register, supplier accreditation, complaints record, stock status. Livestock farming: livestock register, supplier accreditation, complaints record, animal transaction record, genetic record system information.
- Sampling: depending on the inspection type, samples may be taken for analysis. These analyses will be used to check for residues, bovine traceability, etc.
Sample inspections are unannounced inspections. This means that the inspector may turn up at any time, without prior notice, to inspect your business.
The certification decision is taken by our certification committee, following a thorough analysis of your audit documentation and based on the auditor’s opinion. Where the committee decided to award certification, you will receive a certificate of compliance. If you disagree with the certification decision, you may challenge this decision via the dispute, claims and appeals procedure.
Any instance of non-compliance observed during an audit will be assessed and a sanction may be applied.
- Simple comment: a simple comment is used for minor irregularities or where the business manager inadvertently fails to provide the necessary evidence.
- Improvement request: an improvement request states the irregularity observed, the required improvement, and the time frame within which the improvement must be made.
- Where a warning is issued, this will also include the sanction that will be applied if the operator fails to take action. A warning is issued if the operator does not address an improvement request within the required time frame.
- An enhanced inspection will automatically be triggered once a warning has been issued. The operator will be required to cover all costs associated with this inspection.
Downgrading and suspension
- Downgrading of a plot: a specific plot is downgraded for a fixed period of time.
- Downgrading of a consignment: part of the operator’s production is permanently downgraded.
- Product suspension: the operator is prohibited from selling a given product type with any mention of organic production for a fixed period of time.
- Complete suspension: the operator is prohibited from selling all products with any mention of organic production for a fixed period of time.
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