FAQ - Certification Questions

If you’re interested in applying for certification, it is best you contact the office on (07) 3350 5716 or contact@austorganic.com (Monday-Friday, 8.30am-4.30pm) so we can discuss your operation and find out what category you would fall under (i.e. producer/processor/retailer). After contacting the office you will receive an Application Kit which includes all relevant application documentation, a current Fee Schedule and an electronic copy of the current ACO Standard.

No. ACO and any other certification logos are registered/trademarked and permission must be granted prior to use on any print and electronic media. However, for retailers and online stores the use of claims is restricted to only pages or products these claims refer to. E.g. Product packaging states ACO logo, website product description page can reiterate the information found on the packaging as long as this information is displayed in a manner where it cannot mislead consumers to believe the information also refers to other products.

The term ‘organic’ is currently not regulated in Australia, but this is not the case for other countries so check before you export! However, ‘certified organic’ is a regulated term in Australian labelling regulations, this means that if you want to use the term ‘certified’ anywhere on the product label (not necessarily in product name) the handling of the product must be in compliance with organic standards like ACOS, meaning the product must appear on an organic certificate and the label must be approved. If you are not certified yourself nor using certified manufacturers to produce / package/label your product, you cannot use the term ‘certified’ as you are not complying with the Australian labelling regulations.

Yes, hassle free transfer is possible. If you can provide your current organic certificate and recent audit report along with application documents, we will waive the application fee and audit if your last audit has occurred in the last 3 months. Please contact the office to discuss your eligibility for transfer to ACO.

You should receive an Annual Audit Notification letter 3-6 months prior to certificate expiry. Depending on your certification type, the Notification letter may include documentation you will be required to complete before the audit. The auditor will contact you approximately 8 weeks prior to certificate expiry to set a mutually suitable date and time for the audit.

No. The ACOS states that our clients ‘organic’ claims will refer to ‘certified organic’ products only. This is to ensure that consumers are not misled with clever labelling and marketing attempts. When you are certified as a business, any product with ‘organic’ or ‘certified’ claims must be approved by ACO and appear on your certificate.

Yes! We offer a fast track option at an additional cost of $535.00. We will try to work with your time lines, however, it is important that you are organised and ready for this service. Lack of organisation and missing information can lead to delays in processing. You must contact the ACO office to discuss fast tracking your application prior to lodging and paying.

The Group is separated in to two distinct parts: the advocacy work that AO conducts on behalf of our members and clients including marketing, education and market access; and the certification services that ACO provides. Although the two companies work together, ACO as an accredited body is not directed or influenced by AO.

We are Australia’s strongest Group for certification services, organic logo recognition and promoting organic movement. We also spend substantial effort on our member services, brand marketing and promotion, consumer education and industry development.

You might be interested in both the domestic and international markets. ACO offers a range of services from Freshcare (on farm food safety) to meet supermarket requirements, to export certification including Japanese, US, Canadian, Chinese, Korean, IFOAM and European organic standards. It’s good to know upfront what markets you want to access, and remember to discuss this with ACO staff to make sure you bundle your services the right way. It is also important to speak with your prospective customers to ensure you can provide organic products to the standards they require. Please note that various markets, thus services, may have an impact on formulas for processed products, therefore it is important to plan ahead when formulating.

This means understanding the fundamentals/principals/standards of organic management and reviewing the different standards involved in the markets that you are looking at selling to. Understanding how you will meet the requirements of different organic standards is one of the bases for achieving organic certification. It will be expected that you have a written plan for managing your organic business defining all aspects and related risks.

If you have a current quality or safety plan it is best that you review this and incorporate organic into that, otherwise ACO can provide a template for your organic management plan. On this form you will be able to answer each question in regards to how you will manage your business in accordance with the Standard and the regulations required. This document is an integral part of your application and ongoing management of organic business.

Have you reviewed what services (standards) you wish to be certified under? Our Fee Schedule shows application costs for each service, annual renewal costs (for some services) and audit costs. As an example: ACO Application fee is $520 (waived if transferring) + initial audit fee (waived if transferring and had audit in last 3 months). Please note the following:

  • Every location handling organic products must be audited at least once per year
  • Multiple locations within a 20km radius can be bundled into a single inspection, meaning one inspection fee
  • Multiple sites which are further than 20km or can be covered during a single audit will need a separate audit resulting in an additional audit fee
  • Cost of domestic inspections range from $1005 – ~$1182 depending on how remote the site is
  • International inspection costs are charged at a daily rate + travel costs as defined in the Fee Schedule. Please note that the travel costs tend to be split between various parties which are inspected during the travel period.

Lastly, in support of Australian Organic’s programs and services, ACO collects a tier-based Industry Development Levy (IDL), based on gross organic sales. This information is collected each year during inspection. Please refer to the Fee Schedule for IDL information.

Once you have lodged your paid application, the following steps will be undertaken:

  • ACO will process and review your application documents once payment is confirmed. If we require additional information we will contact you.
  • The office will organise the initial on-site audit with one of our registered auditors.
  • The allocated auditor will contact you to arrange a time and date for the Inspection. You must be ready to present any requested documents related to organic production such as balance sheets, purchase and sales records, ACO approvals and derogations, production records, etc. You must be ready to visit all sites and provide the auditor the opportunity to take samples and/or photos should they request.
  • Once the auditor lodges their audit report with ACO, the report will be reviewed. Your results along with a copy of the report will be sent you to. Any non-conformances (corrective actions) will need to be responded to sufficiently within the noted time frame.
  • If no major non-conformances are found post review, your unique certification logo(s) will be issued to you for design purposes. All designed packaging and marketing materials need to be submitted to ACO for formal approval prior to printing.

Requests and requirements may differ based on type of operation and services applied for. The auditor has the right to request any documentation related to organic management, and it is important the information is well managed so that it can be easily retrieved during audit (delays during audit can incur additional hourly fees). Important areas which are covered during audit:

  • Product list, formulas, ingredients/suppliers certificates
  • Labelling / signage/ flows/ maps
  • Segregation- preventing contamination
  • Traceability and record keeping – balancing and reconciling
  • Pest control and cleaning – procedures and products used
  • Inputs – crop and livestock products
  • Contamination risk (Risk Assessment) – how risks are managed
  • Soil or product testing – sampling
  • Management ability – training, information flow
  • How well all of the above are covered in the Organic Plan