Update on CCOF Inspections During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Date

Date Published: 
April 28, 2020
Organic certification and food safety certification are part of the critical infrastructure of food and agriculture, an essential service. Inspections are a critical part of the certification process, and we are frequently evaluating how we can safely conduct them during this time of pandemic restrictions.
 
CCOF is prioritizing inspections for new certifications where an inspection is required to harvest or begin production. We are also performing some renewal inspections when the circumstances allow. All certified operations should remain inspection-ready and maintain required records and a current organic system plan.
 
Inspections may only occur within the following conditions:
  • Both client and inspector are healthy (no flu-like symptoms) and willing.
  • Social distancing precautions are taken. Both inspector and client must follow safety guidelines from the Centers from Disease Control (CDC) (or equivalent in Mexico and Canada) and any additional local or regional guidelines. 
 
Inspectors and clients have the unequivocal right to decline partaking in on-site inspections when stay-at-home orders are in place. If both the inspector and client agree to parameters of a safe inspection and wish to proceed, CCOF has implemented temporary procedures to minimize on-site time and maximize safe social distancing. 
 
The USDA National Organic Program has indicated that, even during this time, certifiers may not issue new certifications without an on-site inspection.
 
CCOF has issued guidelines to our inspectors for Pandemic Contingency Hybrid Inspections. While stay-at-home orders remain in place, CCOF will conduct Hybrid Inspections which include both remote and on-site components. The on-site part will be as efficient as possible, with social distancing measures in place. Outdoor sites, such as farm parcels, are more amenable to isolated visits than are indoor facilities. For indoor facilities, brief, well-planned visits with protective measures may enable completion. In either case, most of the inspection will occur remotely by phone, email, and suitable Internet communication platforms, enabling interviews and document reviews. 
 
The inspector will arrange a pre-inspection meeting with you to develop and agree upon an inspection plan that is suitable for your operation and communication capabilities. Together, you will determine what software and device platforms are available and best suited to the scope and structure of your records and documents. Ideally, you will share a platform with webcam for face-to-face communication and screen-sharing capability to be able to review electronic documents together in real time. Inspectors and producers will need to be flexible to work with whatever virtual tools are available. In some cases, telephone and email may have to suffice. Whenever CCOF is unable to verify essential compliance points during any inspection, a follow up inspection may be required.
 
Typically, Hybrid Inspections will require several separate scheduled components:  Pre-inspection >> Main Meeting >> On-site >> Final Meeting 
 
We thank you for your cooperation and flexibility as we work together to continue producing organic food and upholding high standards of integrity in our organic certification.
 
Please contact Inspectionoperations@ccof.org if you have any questions.