United Kingdom

Mandatory Organic Standards and Labels

In the UK, the EU legislation on organic farming is fully implemented. Additionally, the national Organic Products Regulations 2009 apply. They cover rules for the implementation of EU legislation in the UK. 

The competent authority responsible for the implementation of EU and UK legislation on organic farming as well as for the approval and surveillance of the private control bodies is DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Pre-packed organic products sold in the UK have to be labelled with the EU organic farming logo. For products imported from third countries the use of the EU organic farming logo is optional. A mandatory national organic label does not exist.

Basic Regulation on production and labelling of organic products
COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on the organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91.
This basic regulation became effective on 1 January 2009 and describes the objectives, principles and most important rules on production. The basic regulation is complemented by the rules for implementation (see below).
A consolidated version covering all amendments can be downloaded as well as the single legal acts (all corrections, amendments and additions). Updates are performed regularly and promptly.
eu
Implementing Rules on organic production, labelling and Control
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 labelling of organic products with regard to organic production, labelling and control.
The rules for implementation describe detailed production and labelling rules and positive lists for permitted inputs. The objectives, principles and most important production rules are described in the basic regulation (see above).
A consolidated version covering all amendments can be downloaded as well as the single legal acts (all corrections, amendments and additions). Updates are performed regularly and promptly.
eu
Implementing Rules on the import of organic products from third countries  
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1235/2008 of 8 December 2008 laying down detailed rules for implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 as regards the arrangements for imports of organic products from third countries.
The rules for implementation describe the arrangements for imports of organic products.
A consolidated version covering all amendments can be downloaded as well as the single legal acts (all corrections, amendments and additions). Updates are performed regularly and promptly.
eu
European Commission
Website of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission with information on organic farming and EU legislation.
eu
The Organic Products Regulations 2009
The Organic Products Regulations 2009 cover rules for the implementation of EU legislation on organic farming in the UK. 
en
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with information on the department and its services.
en

To top

Voluntary Organic Standards and Labels

In the UK, there is no voluntary national label, but several organisations provide their own standards and labels. While the standards of the well-established Soil Association have a wider scope than EU legislation on organic farming, the other control bodies largely use EU legislation, with some minor differences. For the UK market, private labels are more important than the EU logo. Consumer polls have indicated that the Soil Association logo has a good consumer recognition, followed by the logo of the Organic Farmers and Growers Ltd (OF&G).

Biodynamic Agricultural Association
Website of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association in UK with comprehensive information on the association and its standards. 
en
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association
Website of the Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association with information on the association and its standards.
en
Organic Farmers and Growers Ltd (OF&G)
Website of Organic Farmers and Growers with information on the association and its standards. 
en
OF&G (Scotland)
Website of the OF&G (Scotland) with information on the association and its standards. 
en
Organic Food Federation
Website of Organic Food Federation with comprehensive information on the association and its standards. 
en
Organic Trust Ltd
Website of Organic Trust Ltd with information on the association founded and situated in Ireland.
en
Quality Welsh Food Certification Ltd.
Website of Quality Welsh Food Certification Ltd. with information on the Welsh organic farming scheme.
en
Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA)
Website of Scottish Organic Producers Association with comprehensive information on the association. All SOPA members are certified by Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G Scotland).
en
Soil Association
Website of Soil Association with comprehensive information on the association, its standards and the organic market. 
en

To top

Control Bodies

The control and certification process is performed by private control bodies approved by the government. The competent authority responsible for the approval and surveillance of organic control bodies is DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). The up-to-date directory of UK organic control bodies is published by the EU.

Control Authorities
List of designated control authorities and approved control bodies in the EU, as well as in the European Economic Area and Switzerland in accordance with Article 35 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007.
Provided are respective links to an official, older version and a more current, provisional version.
eu

To top

Import Requirements

The procedure for the import of organic products into the United Kingdom depends on the country of origin. Within the European Union, organic products can be marketed freely in all Member States. Organic products from countries outside the European Union can be imported into the United Kingdom if the exporting country is listed in the directory of recognised third countries or the products have been certified by a control body authorised by the EU Commission as equivalent.

Sales of organic products from EU countries

The United Kingdom belongs to the European Union. Within the European Union, the principle of free movement of goods applies for organic products subject to Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007. Organic products which have been produced or processed in an EU member state or which are imported from third countries into another EU member state can be marketed freely in the United Kingdom. 

Import of organic products from non-EU countries

Organic products from countries outside the European Union (so-called third countries) can be imported into the EU and can be labelled with reference to organic agriculture and the EU organic logo, if they comply with the legal requirements of EU legislation for organic agriculture and have been controlled and certified on-site at all levels of production, processing, storage and marketing. Organic products from non-EU countries can be imported according to the following two procedures:

  • Procedure 1 – Import from recognised third countries
  • Procedure 2 – Import from all other third countries

Import from recognised third countries

Organic products from non-EU countries can be imported into an EU country and marketed with reference to organic production if the exporting country is listed in the directory of recognised third countries (Annex III of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008). With the listing in Annex III of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008 the European Union recognises that the rules for production and inspection for certain product categories in these countries are equivalent to the rules of the EU legislation on organic farming. Exceptions for single products and product categories can occur.

The up-to-date directory of recognised third countries can be found in Annex III of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008 (see below). For each of these countries it has been specified which product categories are permitted for import (for example unprocessed plant products, live animals and unprocessed animal products etc.), which restrictions are in place, which control authority is responsible and from which control bodies the issued certificates of inspection are recognised.

Import from all other third countries

Organic products from non-EU countries not belonging to the recognised third countries (see above) can be imported into an EU country and marketed with reference to organic production if they have been certified by a third countries’ control body approved by the EU Commission according to Annex IV of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008. This list of recognised control bodies and control authorities also specifies the third countries and product categories for which the recognition applies.

Customs clearance and import notification

Each batch of organic products imported into the EU has to be accompanied by a certificate of inspection as defined in Annex V of Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008, which is issued by the control body of the operator conducting the last preparation step in the third country, e.g. packing and labelling the export batches. The import company notifies its control body with a copy of this certificate of inspection about the intended import. At the point of entry, the certificate of inspection has to be presented in original form to the EU customs authority. The certificate is examined by customs for correctness and provided with an endorsement. After customs clearance, the imported lots can be traded freely in all member states of the EU.

Annex III of Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008: List of Third Countries
Directory of third countries and relevant specifications according to Article 7.
Directory of recognised third countries. The list describes the product categories for which the recognition is valid (including restrictions), the applicable production rules, the responsible authorities, the recognised control bodies, as well as the authorities issuing certifications. Go to the latest consolidated version to receive the latest version of the list.
eu
Organic Farming Information System: List of recognised Control Bodies and Control Authorities
List of control bodies and control authorities for the purpose of equivalence and relevant specifications referred to in article 10 of Regulation (EC) 1235/2008.
Directory of control bodies recognised as equivalent sorted according to name of control body. Listed are countries and product categories for which the recognition applies. This list is updated irregularly.
eu
Annex IV of Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008: List of recognised Control Bodies and Control Authorities
List of control bodies and control authorities for the purpose of equivalence and relevant specifications referred to in Article 10.
Directory of control bodies recognised as equivalent sorted according to name of control body. Listed are the countries and product categories for which the recognition applies.
The link leads to an overview page. To find the latest consolidated version, please scroll down until you reach the headline "Relationship between documents". There you find "All consolidated versions". Open the latest consolidated version and scroll down within the document until you reach Annex IV. To find out, which control bodies are recognised for a certain country, you can use the search function and search for the country you are interested in.
eu

To top

Further Information

General information on organic agriculture in the United Kingdom.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Information on organic farming provided by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
en
UK Organic Market Report (March 2016)
Report on the UK organic market from March 2016 provided by the Irish Food Board.
en
Soil Association: Organic Market information
Information on the UK organic market provided by the Soil Association.
en
Organic Europe: Organic Farming in the United Kingdom
Summary report on organic agriculture in the United Kingdom. The site is updated irregularly.
en
Global Organic Trade Guide: United Kingdom
Website of the American Organic Trade Association (OTA) providing information on international organic trade. Although designed for U.S. exporters, some of the provided information might also be interesting for exporters from other countries.
en

To top