EU Standards History & Background

History and Background of EU Organic Standards

The European Union has a set of standards for organic production known as EEC 834/2007 and 889/2008. These standards detail how organic products may be imported to EU member states. The mechanisms for organic producers to export to the EU have changed in recent years. This background information explains the details of the EU system.

There are two different systems under which CCOF-certified organic product may be exported to the EU, depending on the origin of that product: products may be exported under third country equivalency from the United States or Canada, or through certifier equivalency from other locations.

U.S.-EU Equivalency Arrangement

The EU may approve the certification programs of countries that have national standards by listing them as “equivalent third countries.” In 2012, the EU agreed to recognize the United States as one of these countries. This approval of the United States organic certification system means that U.S.-certified organic product that has final processing or packaging in the United States can be exported to the EU with only limited additional documentation. The United States has similarly approved the EU as an equivalent system, allowing for easier imports of EU organic product into the country. No import licenses are required.

This third country approval of the U.S. system means that it is now much easier than it used to be for U.S. product to be exported to the EU. Only minor additional verification is needed. Our Global Market Access program provides this verification to CCOF clients.

The agreement between the United States and the EU is about “equivalency,” meaning that the standards of each entity are different but achieve the same goal. Products must still meet the labeling requirements of the importing country.

The EU has listed other third countries, such as Canada, as similarly equivalent. See the EU legislation page for more information about which countries have been approved by the EU, or refer to Annex III of the regulation.

Direct Certifier Equivalency

In 2009, the EU Commission began accepting applications from certification agencies such as CCOF who wished to have their programs formally recognized as equivalent to EU standards. CCOF applied for and was granted this formal recognition under the EU’s direct certifier equivalency program during the first round of approvals in 2010.

This system applies to products that are shipped to the EU from countries that are not approved as “third country equivalent” (as described above), such as Mexico. Operations who export organic product to the EU from such locations can enroll in the CCOF International Standard program, which has been granted direct equivalency approval by the EU.

EU-Equivalent CCOF-Certified Operations

CCOF operations that have been found to comply with the International Standard program can be found using the advanced search of our member directory. Simply check the “International Standard” certification program box and press “search.”

EU Organic Regulations

In 2007, the European Commission revised the European Union Organic Standards from EEC 2092/91 to (EC) 834/2007: Basic Regulations and 889/2008: Detailed Implementation Rules.

Together, these standards marked a new era for the EU organic program. Under this revision, a new EU organic logo was developed and new approaches to imports implemented. The EU is phasing out previous import systems in favor of a centralized approval and recognition system.

For complete information on the revision, major changes to the standards, and the EU approach to imports, download the IFOAM EU Group Dossier - The New EU Regulation for organic Food and Farming: (EC) 834/2007 Background, Assessment, Interpretation.

Complete Standards and Additional Information

The standards and information below are included as a reference for interested parties.

Complete Overview of EU Standards Compiled by the IFOAM EU Group

  • Commission Regulation 207/93 of 29 January 1993, defined the additives, processing aids, and non-organic agricultural ingredients allowed in processed organic foods.
  • Commission Regulation 1804/1999 of 19 July 1999, set requirements for organic animal production, defining common rules for organic livestock husbandry for the first time.
  • Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 of 24 June 1991, on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Communities, L198 (22.7.1991), and subsequent amendments.
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of 29 April 2004, on official food and feed controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health, and welfare rules. Also referred to as the OFC regulation (Official Food and Feed Control).
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007, on organic production and labeling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC ) No 2092/91. Official Journal of the European Communities, L189/1 (20.7.2007), 1-23.
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 404/2008 of 6 May 2008, amending Annex II to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 on organic production of agricultural products as concerns the authorization of spinosad, potassium bicarbonate and copper octanoate, and the use of ethylene. Official Journal of the European Communities, L120/8 (7.5.2008), 8-10.
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008 of 5 September 2008, laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labeling of organic products with regard to organic production, labeling, and control. Official Journal of the European Communities, L250/1 (18.9.2008), 1-84. Regulation 889/2008 is often referred to as "NIROF" (New Implementing Rules for Organic Farming). On 1 January 2009, Regulation 834/2007 came into force, together with the implementing rules, regulations 889/2008 and 1235/2009.
  • Council Regulation 967/2008 of 29 September 2008, amending Regulation 834/2007 to delay the introduction of the EU logo.
  • Commission Regulation 1235/2008 of 8 December 2008, establishing under Regulation 834/2007 the implementing rules for imports from third countries.
  • Commission Regulation 1254/2008 of 15 December 2008, the first amendment to Regulation 889/2008 allowing use of 100% own-farm conversion feed and festive coloring of eggs, and adding standards for yeast.

All regulation texts are available in the official form and in all European languages. A chronological list of the organic regulation revisions can also be found in the IFOAM EU Group information.

Contact with additional questions about international programs or exports.