FAQ - Operator Questions

Primary Production

Becoming certified as a producer can take anywhere from 12 months up to 3 years taking into consideration the following time frames:

  • Pre-Certification – has the land been managed as ‘compliant’ to an organic Standard for the last 3 years leading up to your organic application? If yes, and you are able to show paddock history, and test results are negative for contaminants, In-Conversion (IC) status can be granted. If the property is deemed as contaminated or historic evidence cannot be demonstrated/proven, the initial 12 months must be managed as per organic rules without certification. The site will be reassessed at your second audit.
  • In Conversion (IC) period: Minimum 12 months based on prior history, this is your time to show us that you understand the requirements and can manage organically. Example: the property has been managed and has not been treated in any way for 10 years – IC is granted and the property must be managed as organic for following 12 months. At second audit, soil tests will show again if there are any contaminants, if negative, ‘organic’ status is granted.
  • Certified organic: The operator is now able to claim they are ACO certified and products can bare the ACO logo for relevant service/ Standard applied for. All claims must be formally approved by ACO.

Where it can be verified that there have been no conventional farming practices previously through records and declarations for a period of 36 months, the area may be eligible for In Conversion status after the initial audit. The area still needs to go through a minimum 12 months in Conversion period prior to being reviewed for Certified Organic status.

Yes. Australian Organic has a registered input program which verifies compliance of farming inputs to the ACOS. A full list can be found here or on the ACO Product Search, just select “Advanced Search”

Please note the following important points:

  • The Australian Certified Organic Standard (ACOS) under Annex 1 and 2 lists generic materials which are allowed or restricted for use.
  • Allowed inputs are deemed to be compliant to the ACOS and National Organic Export Standard, if you are also certified to other Standards you need to seek ACO approval to use any input.
  • It is important that you declare all inputs prior to using them in case they do not meet one or more Standards you are certified to.
  • Use of inputs is restricted based on demonstrated need and approval by ACO.

Under the requirements of a number of organic Standards, ruminant livestock held on organic property must be managed in accordance with the organic Standards from the last trimester of gestation for the progeny to be sold for slaughter as organic. It is often common for livestock operators to have a breeding herd that is managed organically but cannot be sold for slaughter as organic because they were not born on certified land or were on farm before the farm became certified.

Processors/Handlers/Wholesalers/Contract Processors

Your certification number and logo will be issued once you have been granted organic certification and will appear on your first organic certificate.

Yes – once you receive your unique ACO logo and have incorporated it on to your labels, you must submit the labels for approval. Please refer to the Fee Schedule for these costs.

The time frame between beginning the Initial Document Review and receiving your first Compliance Certificate can be approximately 6-8 weeks, assuming all documents are completed appropriately, no corrective actions are raised at review or audit stages and a mutually suitable date can be set between yourself and the auditor.

No. Certified organic ingredients need to be used first and foremost where available in commercial quantities required. If you cannot source a specific ingredient as certified organic then you may request for derogation for the inclusion of this ingredient into the formulation. The ingredient must still comply with the requirements of the organic Standards e.g. non-GMO, non-synthetic, non-irradiated, non-nano, etc. ACO reviews all ingredients used in products to ensure they comply with the organic Standards.

You can search for organic ingredients, products and a full client list via the ACO Product Search on the ACO website (using the ‘Advanced Search’).

Natural ingredients in certified organic products are restricted and can be used based on necessity and organic availability. All natural ingredients that are not listed in the ACO Standard as allowed must be evaluated and approved by ACO as meeting the below requirements to be allowed:

  1. Not available as certified organic (if it is available as certified organic it cannot be approved as a natural ingredient);
  2. It can only make up a maximum of 5% of the total product to be called certified organic;
  3. Non-genetically modified;
  4. Non-irradiated;
  5. Non-fumigated;
  6. Non-nano;
  7. Not tested on animals;
  8. Produced naturally without the use of prohibited processing aids and additives
  9. Natural flavours must be classified as natural under the Foods Standards Australia New Zealand section 1.3.1. 11(b).

Natural ingredients are to be submitted to ACO via our online questionnaire.

No. Certified organic products must be sourced from certified organic operators. All stages of the supply chain must be certified.

Yes. Not all ingredients are made equal. Any changes to your suppliers, ingredients and/or ingredient quantities must be reported to ACO for formal approval as this may also impact the organic % and therefore labels.

Yes – if you are changing suppliers, adding suppliers or new products you must notify ACO. We will verify your supplier(s) to ensure they are certified organic to a Standard ACO recognises. Adding new products is easy and provides your customers with an up to date product listing they can trust as being certified organic.

When applying for certification, formulas/ recipes should be completed using the ACO template and submitted with your ACO Certification Application.

If you are an existing certified operator, you should submit product applications well before you need to start production to allow time for review of ingredients. If you start manufacturing the new product prior to formal approval being granted, the risk is if the formula needs to be adjusted due to non-compliance, the manufactured product will not be permitted to be sold as certified organic.

Rule number one, do not print prior to formula and label approval. Jumping the gun can be costly.

The product labels need to follow labelling regulations of the country the product will be sold in. However, here are a few points for what you can claim in addition:

  • You can claim your company is certified with ACO, placing of this claim is key.
  • You can claim the organic status and/or % as per your approval letter.
  • All certified organic ingredients in the ‘Ingredients table’ must be identified (e.g. *Certified organic by ACO).
  • Use of ACO logo is not mandatory, however certification details must be included on labels ( ACO certified 1234), this includes cases of “Made with..” claims where logo is not permitted to be used.
  • Products over 95% certified organic content as per approval can be labelled ‘organic’ or ‘certified organic’ on the front of the product, and the logo can be displayed on the front too!
  • Products under 95% certified organic content cannot be labelled ‘organic’ or ‘certified organic’ on front, the regulated claim is ‘Made with certified organic ingredients’. The ACO logo cannot be used.
  • Products under 70% certified organic content are not certifiable however if you choose to identify ingredients as ‘organic’ or ‘certified organic’ you must have this verified and approved.