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Procedures for Third Parties Reporting of Contaminated Product to CCOF

This reporting policy has been implemented to protect the integrity of organic certification and organic products in the marketplace. This policy applies to all operations, certified or not, that grow, handle, process, broker, market, retail or otherwise sell organic products.

Reporting Procedures

Any CCOF-certified operation that becomes aware that organic products they grow, handle, process, broker, sell, or consider purchasing have been contaminated with prohibited materials should immediately take the following actions:

  1. Inform CCOF by submitting the following items in writing:
    • The type (including variety, if applicable) of contaminated product
    • The source of the product, including the certification agency of that source
    • The lot number or other identifying mark, if any, of the product
    • The quantity of contaminated product, if known
    • The name of the prohibited contaminant, if known
    • The amount of the prohibited material, if known
    • The basis of knowledge of the contamination (food safety testing, observation, etc.)
    • If testing was performed, the test results themselves and any information about the sampling protocol and chain of custody
    • Any information about the likely source or reason for the contamination
    • Who the product has already been sold to (if applicable)
    • Any additional information relevant to the situation
  2. Inform the supplier of the product (if any) of the contamination, including all of the information above.
  3. Inform the certification agency of the supplier of the contaminated product with all of the information above. In cases where the original source or downstream handler (grower, processor, broker, etc.) is certified by a certification agency other than CCOF, that certifier should be notified directly by the CCOF certified operation reporting the contamination.

If positive residue analysis is submitted to CCOF by a third party as proof of contamination, CCOF may request some or all of the following additional information to help determine whether more investigative measures are necessary.

  1. An investigative report with the following details about the collection of the sample:
    • Who collected it
    • Date of collection
    • Sampling method
    • Observations of the surrounding area (field or facility)
    • Chain of custody documentation
    • Type of analytic screen used (MRL vs. single screen)
    • Any other investigation follow-up that has been taken by the party who collected, or is submitting the sample
    • Photos, if taken
  2. Traceability documentation for product from a retailer, handler, processor, wholesaler, distributor, or other postharvest handling source purchase, and receiving documents tracing the product back to the supplier.
  3. Any written correspondence the third party has issued to the client, and/or any information on planned action that might be taken that would be relevant to CCOF’s investigation.

When receiving results from a third party, CCOF will still investigate to try to determine the source of contamination, however in terms of declaring the product ineligible for organic sale, we may choose not to do so depending on how much information is provided by the third party, and whether that information is conclusive. CCOF may conduct an onsite investigation at our discretion.

If the contamination was due to a direct application of prohibited materials or commingling, or testing shows the prohibited material is present in amounts greater than 5% of the EPA tolerance allowed for that specific crop or commodity, the existing inventory of product must not be sold as “organic.” The product may be destroyed, donated, or re-labeled (if applicable) and sold as non-organic, if otherwise legal. Sufficient records must be kept to verify that the product was not sold as organic. Product that has levels of contamination above those which are allowed on non-organic product may be subject to a food safety recall.

Processing, brokering or selling product as “organic” that is later tested and found to be contaminated with prohibited materials may not result in a noncompliance, so long as the processor, broker or seller was not aware of the contamination at the time they handled the product. If testing was performed by a downstream buyer, the client may not sell existing inventory as organic unless additional testing performed by the client shows that the contamination levels on the product are under 5% of the EPA tolerance.

Any operation that knowingly labels, sells, or represents product as “organic” that does not meet the requirements for organic certification may be subject to a civil penalty of not more than the amount specified in §3.91(b)(1) of this title, per violation. §205.662(g)(1)

Additional Information


Operations downstream from farms such as processors, brokers and retailers, are more frequently performing pesticide residue sampling of organic product as part of food safety or other protocols. CCOF believes it is in the best interest of certified operations and the consumer to inform all known downstream buyers of the situation. In any case of prohibited materials found on organic products, CCOF is required to conduct an investigation to determine the source of the contamination. The procedures specified above will allow for such an investigation to occur and for the involved parties and the certification agencies to ensure the integrity of the supply chain of organic products in the marketplace.

Two female workers discussing while standing in food factory. One of them holding paperwork and pen while other one speaking.

Regulatory References

  • (c) Any operation that:
    (1) Knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with the Act, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than the amount specified in § 3.91(b)(1) of this title per violation.

  • Any agricultural product that is sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” must be:
    (a) Produced in accordance with the requirements specified in § 205.101 or §§ 205.202 through 205.207 or §§ 205.236 through 205.240 and all other applicable requirements of part205; and
    (b) Handled in accordance with the requirements specified in § 205.101 or §§ 205.270 through 205.272 and all other applicable requirements of this part 205.

  • A person seeking to receive or maintain organic certification under the regulations in this part must:
    … (f) Immediately notify the certifying agent concerning any:
    (1) Application, including drift, of a prohibited substance to any field, production unit, site, facility, livestock, or product that is part of an operation; and
    (2) Change in a certified operation or any portion of a certified operation that may affect its compliance with the Act and the regulations in this part.

  • When residue testing detects prohibited substances at levels that are greater than 5 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s tolerance for the specific residue detected or unavoidable residual environmental contamination, the agricultural product must not be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced. The Administrator, the applicable State organic program’s governing State official, or the certifying agent may conduct an investigation of the certified operation to determine the cause of the prohibited substance.

(c) Any operation that:
(1) Knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with the Act, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than the amount specified in § 3.91(b)(1) of this title per violation.