I wonder what kind of checks they have to make when testing products for organic certification. Does it include testing for heavy metals, asbestos, arsenic, etc.?

P.S. I apologize if this is the wrong place for this question. Please link me to where it is more appropriate to ask this question in case it is not.

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    Organic is about the way it is grown. You can’t bring any random products, have them tested in some way and certified as organic on that basis.
    – chirlu
    Mar 24 '18 at 2:40

It looks like the EU has regulations prohibiting the sale of any food with certain threshold of heavy metals.

Asbestos contamination in food is not a high risk. Asbestos is dangerous when inhaled, and is mostly associated with old buildings. Therefore food is not likely to be a major source of asbestos.

I don't know if there is a testing regime, but I doubt it would be organic specific, and it probably varies by EU country.

Organic food shouldn't be more or less likely to be contaminated with heavy metal. Copper sulfate used to be an organic pesticide, but this has been largely phased out in the EU. Apparently its up to member states, but in the UK "from January 2017 there may not be any copper products that can be used by organic farmers".

In general, food testing hasn't found any major differences between organic and conventional farming.

"A meta-analysis by Smith-Spangler et al. included 153 studies of crop composition in organic and conventional agriculture, published between 1966 and May 2009 and fulfilling basic reporting criteria. Compositional parameters of interest included nutrients and contaminants. Overall, no differences between production systems were detected as regards nutrient content, with the exception of higher phosphorus and total phenolics contents that were found to be higher in organic crops. Among the contaminants, no differences between production systems were found for heavy metals and bacteria, but among the fungal toxins in cereals, one of two investigated toxins (deoxynivalenol, DON) was found in lower levels in organic cereal crops."

  • Thanks for explaining. Indeed organic does not cover it, which means that some foods can still be high in heavy metals. For example seaweed is often high in heavy metals.
    – Jack
    Mar 24 '18 at 22:55

The EU rules for "organic" are complex, but the principle is that "organic" is a way or producing food, not a test done on food after it has been produced.

The orginal notion was to produce vegetables without using mineral fertilizers or pesticides, and instead depend on compost or manure as fertilizer. This was then extended to Livestock and Aquaculture, and even to non-food products, such as cosmetics. To get organic certification you need to prove (usually through a body such as the Soil Association) that you are compliant with all the rules for "Organic". This means lots of paperwork!

If you can prove through the certification process that you are producing food in an organic way, then your produce can bear the "organic" label. It is not based on a test of the food. See Ecocert for more details of the certification procedure.

  • That was certainly an interesting read... Concerning too in some ways. Thanks for linking it!
    – Jack
    Mar 24 '18 at 22:54

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