Processor and Handlers
About Pennsylvania Certified Organic
Pennsylvania Certified Organic certifies food production and farming operations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region including snack foods, coffee, tea, cosmetics, honey, maple products, whiskey, beer, candy, produce, flour, crops, herbs, wild crops, livestock products (dairy, beef and poultry), livestock feed, mushrooms, and more.
PCO is accredited by the USDA under the National Organic Program and ISO Guide 65. Organic products certified by PCO may be labeled and sold as organic in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries that recognize USDA organic certification.
In partnership with Gluten-Free Certification Organization, PCO also offers gluten-free audits, inspection and testing.
The Five Steps of Organic Certification
Step 1 – APPLICATION: Order an application package by calling the PCO office or by completing the online form. Fill out the necessary forms and documents, and submit them to PCO for review with your application fee. A full breakdown of certification fees is also available on our website.
Step 2 – REVIEW OF APPLICATION: Once PCO receives your complete application, we will perform an initial review to ensure your ability to comply with the NOP regulations. A report will be sent to you with the name of the assigned inspector and a description of specific points to be addressed during the inspection.
Step 3 – ON-SITE INSPECTION: An inspector will come on site to serve as the eyes and ears for PCO, noting and verifying systems in place. The inspector will then submit an inspection report to PCO.
Step 4 – REVIEW OF INSPECTION REPORT: Involves PCO reviewing the inspection report and generating a certification report. This will outline any non-compliances that the client must correct prior to certification. The client must sign the certification report and correct any non-compliances that were noted.
Step 5 – CERTIFICATION DECISION: If your system is found to be compliant with the organic regulations PCO will issue a new certificate and a supplemental Organic Product Verification (OPV) to the client. The client is now certified to sell, label, and represent the items listed on their OPV as organic.
HACCP vs. OCPP
Many questions often arise regarding Organic Control Point Plans (OCPPs). What are they? What do they cover? Why would I need one when I already have a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan? The easiest way to think of OCPPs is as an organic control assurance from receiving to sale. HACCP plans generally have three main food safety concerns: biological, chemical, and physical. OCPPs have two main organic assurance concerns: commingling and contamination. Commingling refers to organic ingredients or products coming into contact with conventionally grown/produced ingredients or products. Contamination occurs when organic ingredients or products come into contact with prohibited substances that are not allowed per NOP regulations.
PCO does not require that clients have an OCPP on file. However, developing and maintaining an OCPP may be a useful tool in helping you identify areas where organic integrity could be compromised in your system. Some clients may choose to modify their HACCP plan already in place to include organic control points. Others choose to submit their OCPP in the form of a detailed narrative. The most appropriate form of OCPP for you ultimately depends on you type of operation.
Once you have been granted certification you will receive a Certificate and Organic Product Verification (OPV) with a list of approved products. Any additional new products that you would like to add to your OPV must be reviewed by PCO prior to sale or representation as “100% Organic”, “Organic”, or “Made with organic…” This applies to any reformulated previously certified products or even reformatted product labels. This last point is exceedingly important, as all labels must be approved by PCO prior to use. Make sure to get PCO’s approval in advance for every specific product label that you use. We strongly suggest that you never place a label order with a printer before that label has been approved by PCO. If a problem is found after labels are printed then the labels may need to be destroyed. The NOP offers guidance on labeling requirements within their website: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOP
European Union (EU) – The USDA NOP has an equivalence arrangement with the European Union. This means that as long as the products going to the EU have been certified by an USDA accredited certifying agent, such as PCO, in accordance to the National Organic Standards, USA organic products may be labeled and sold as organic in the EU. PCO must verify a few additional stipulations for the certified client before this can occur.
Canada – The USDA NOP and the Canadian Organic Products Regulations established an equivalency arrangement in 2009. This means that PCO-certified products can be sold to entities for sale in Canada with verification of compliance to the equivalency arrangement. PCO must verify a few additional stipulations for the certified client before this can occur.
Japan & Taiwan – The USDA NOP has an export arrangement with Japan & Taiwan. This means that PCO-certified products can be sold to entities for sale in both countries without a separate certification to the Japanese or Taiwanese regulations. PCO must verify a few additional stipulations for the certified client before this can occur.
View our Processor Guidance Documents here.