Claiming organic when it’s not (in Canada) and getting caught is ‘like getting caught for driving so fast you lose your licence, but aren’t fined’

Auditors, certifiers, validators, grease monkeys, soil farmers, they’re all supposed to make things better.

But claims are nothing more than claims in the absence of data.

And anyone who has to say, “trust me,” is immediately untrustworthy.

So when Laura Telford, executive director of the Canadian Organic Growers, told Canadian news types a couple of weeks ago, “I’m not certain the world needs to know the exact reason why this company lost its certification. I personally feel that its enough to know that CFIA is doing its job … and when a company is not following the rules, there will be consequences,” howls of cynical guffawing ensued among those familiar with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

A few weeks ago, Lynne Moore reported in the Montreal Gazette that on June 30, 2009, the Organic Products Regulations came into effect under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The regulations provided for a transition period, a two-year span that would allow everyone to align their operations to the new reality and take care of practical matters such as using up existing packaging.

In a July 27, 2011, notice, the Canada Organic Office said Jirah Milling and Sales Inc., of Ormstown, Que., was no longer authorized to market organic products or use the Canada Organic logo (the logo that would now be recognized by the U.S. and the EU).

The notice of suspension of organic certification was sent to industry and certification bodies, but the document was not publicly disseminated by the federal body on a website or via a media release.

The Montreal Gazette found the government’s suspension notice about one of Eastern Canada’s most significant international organic dealers on the "newsroom" page of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website. It wasn’t deemed newsworthy in Canada, but it was in the U.S.

Michel Saumur, the office’s national manager and program spokesman, would not provide information about the scope of Jirah’s corporate activities, wouldn’t discuss complaints received about the company, wouldn’t say why its certification was suspended – and subsequently cancelled – and would not even disclose which certifying body had accredited Jirah.

Email inquiries to CFIA’s media office finally generated a response on Friday afternoon. The Organic Products Regulations "do not have provisions for fines and additional penalties at this time."

So it’s something like getting caught for driving so fast you lose your licence, but aren’t fined.