Even in tough financial times, shoppers across Canada are choosing to buy organically grown food.

It costs a little extra, but for many chemical-free means worry-free.

If shoppers are paying the extra money for organically grown groceries, how can we be sure it’s really organic?

Understanding exactly what it means to be organic is the first step, says Matthew Holmes, managing director of the Ottawa-based Organic Trade Association in Canada. He explains that the meaning of organic food comes from a whole system.

“Organic is a production system of growing and producing holistic food that is good for the earth,” says Holmes. “From field to fork, all along the way it must be organic.”

For consumers, this means there are standards set out that determine what farms need to do in order to be certified as organic by a third party, says Holmes.

These third parties must be able to have access to a farm’s barn, fields, records and even check what type of cleaners are being used.

Once the farm has passed the grade they can use a certified organic logo on their packaging, which is what consumers need to look for. Normally located on the front of the package, the logo should clearly state the words “certified organic.”

Choosing the right produce isn’t just in the hands of shoppers — proprietors of organic goods often need to do research into certain brands before putting them on the shelves.

Co-founder and vice president of Planet Organic, an organic food store chain across Canada, Diane Shaskin says they often use the same growers year after year knowing they have a good reputation.

“We know they’re certified organic,” says Shaskin. “There’s a paper trail that shows they are.”
By July 2009 organic consumers will have even more reason to feel safe when buying organic products. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be stepping in to help police the organic industry, investigating farms and providing enforcement at Canadian borders.

The CFIA will provide a logo for all organic food in Canada making it easier for shoppers to identify organic food.

“It gives a total level playing field,” says Holmes. “Consumers will be able to identify organic instantly.”

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