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Minister Smith renews advice to consumers on purchasing organic produce

"IF IT ISN'T CERTIFIED ORGANIC, YOU HAVE NO ASSURANCE THAT IT IS ORGANIC"

Mr. Brendan Smith T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, today reminded consumers buying organic food that they should insist on proof that they are paying for the real thing.

"There is only one guarantee that you are buying organic food," Minister Smith said, "and that is an official certification from one of the Irish organic farming bodies or an approved body in another EU member state. If the seller can't show you the certification, then you have absolutely no assurance whatsoever about what you are buying."

Minister Smith was speaking after the Department had successfully prosecuted a Cork trader for breach of the regulations controlling the organic sector. In the first prosecution of its kind, the trader was fined €2,000 plus €400 costs.

Minister Smith said that the successful prosecution underlined the Department's commitment to protecting the integrity of the organic sector. "Organic food normally commands a premium price. Generally speaking, there are good reasons for that because it is more expensive to produce. But it is vital for the consumer to have the fullest confidence that he or she is getting a genuine organic product. That is why we absolutely cannot and will not tolerate traders who break the rules."

Minister Smith explained that organic food is controlled by EU Regulations, and under these Regulations the Department of Agriculture and Food is the competent authority in Ireland. There are three bodies authorised to certify organic producers and processors in Ireland. They operate under a service agreement with the Department and the Department monitors and supervises their work as well as carrying out inspections of its own.

"The three authorised bodies are the Irish Organic Farmers' and Growers' Association (IOFGA), Organic Trust and Demeter Standards Limited," Minister Smith said. "Consumers should insist on seeing a certificate from one of them, or a certificate from a body authorised in another EU state - the Soil Association, for example. If the trader can produce the certificate, consumers know that they are getting the real thing for their money. Otherwise they are risking being ripped off" Minister Smith said.

Minister Smith reminded consumers that anyone selling organic food without proper certification was liable to fines of up to €3,000 or a term of imprisonment. "I am calling on consumers to report incidents of people illegally pretending to sell organic food. Not only are they deceiving the consumer, but they are also harming genuine organic producers. I have told my officials that I want such cases investigated fully and dealt with firmly. Consumers can report any suspicious incidents to the Department's Organic Unit at Lo-call 1890 200 509, or by email at organics@agriculture.gov.ie. Any reports will be followed up immediately. The officials in the Organic Unit will also be glad to give the public advice about organic food and their rights as consumers."

22 November 2006

NOTE FOR EDITORS

Organic food produced in Ireland must be certified by one of the following three bodies:

Irish Organic Farmers' & Growers' Association (IOFGA)
Main Street
Newtownforbes
Co Longford
Tel: (043) 42495 Fax: (043) 42496
Email: iofga@eircom.net

Website www.irishorganic.ie

Organic Trust Ltd

Vernon House
2 Vernon Avenue
Clontarf
Dublin 3
Tel: (01) 8530271 Fax: (01) 8530271
Email: organic@iol.ie

Website www.organic-trust.org

Demeter Standards (Irl) Ltd

Watergarden
Thomastown
Co Kilkenny
Tel: (056) 7754214 Fax: (056) 7754214
Email: bdaai@indigo.ie

Organic produce certified in Ireland must carry the words Certified Organic or Organic Certification on the product label followed by the code of the certifying body

IRL-OIB2-EU (IOFGA)
IRL-OIB3-EU (Organic Trust)
IRL-OIB1-EU (Demeter)

Date Released: 22 November 2006