Denmark has a long tradition of organic farming, and over the years organic food production has attracted great attention from politicians, authorities and organizations. Effective control of the organic production has given Danish organic products a high degree of credibility. This is an important condition for the marketing of the organic products.
Trade in organic foods is widespread in Denmark, and the products are sold mainly through ordinary places of purchase such as supermarkets, but also market sales, subscription sales, internet sales and farm outlets are common.
Danish legislation on organic production
Since various non-governmental organizations (NGO's) in Denmark have been very active in developing organic production for several years, Denmark became one of the first countries in the world to introduce legislation on organic production. The first act was passed in 1987. Shortly afterwards, the state inspection logo, known as the red Ø logo, was introduced.
At the same time, the interest in organic production increased at the European Union level, resulting in rules from 1991 on organic production of vegetable foods. The work for common EU rules cumulated with the adoption of rules on animal production, which were put into force in the summer of 2000. Denmark has always been very active during the entire process to influence the rules.
No additives, please
It is important to Denmark that organic foods contain no additives, if at all possible and acceptance of the use of additives requires them to be essential to production. Denmark's policy on additives in organic foods is therefore very strict. Denmark works along these very restrictive principles when EU rules are laid down on the use of additives.
Efficient state inspection from stable to table
It is difficult to compare private against state inspection of organic production. Public authorities are regarded as independent and impartial and are subject to parliamentary control. The same effect can be ensured by accreditation of private inspection bodies. Public authorities thus do not need such accreditation.
Only authorities under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries carry out inspection under the government rules for organic production. The Danish AgriFish Agency inspects the primary production, while the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration inspects food companies. Some undertakings are inspected daily, while other undertakings have inspection visits at least once a year.
Inspection of organic foods in Denmark applies to all stages from stable to table. Also those who are exclusively wholesalers or store organic foods at the wholesale level are encompassed by the organic food inspection. This means enhanced conditions for carrying out cross checks. Accounting and documentation information exchanged by undertakings is crosschecked as part of the ordinary organic food inspection.
Crosschecking is one of the most efficient means when it comes to uncovering actual fraudulent trade in organic products. Although few, the cases of fraud or serious mistakes have thus almost all of them been discovered by comparing accounting information from different undertakings. Danish authorities therefore attach great importance to crosschecking as a means of complementing the ordinary inspection on internal accounts.
The legislation on Public Law
The inspection of organic food production is usually carried out as a part of the ordinary control according to the food legislation. The inspectors are impartial and independent. They have no personal or financial interests in the inspected undertakings. Like all Danish authorities, they are subject to the Danish Public Access Act and the Danish Public Administration Act.
Basically, The Public Access Act secures that any Danish citizen, undertaking or reporter can request access to the files of the public administration with a few exemptions such as strictly confidential or personal information. The purpose of The Public Access Act is that everybody should have access to the reasons for the decisions made by public authorities. The Public Administration Act ensures that a citizen is given the opportunity to submit his comments before a decision is taken in a case concerning him.
All organic farmers need a license for organic operation from the authorities, and it is a condition for all organic production, processing or labeling that the work may not start until the relevant authority has issued a report stating all the conditions for the activities.
The number of inspections, with or without notice, for each organic operation depends on the complexity of the production involved. Most inspection visits are made without notice. A slaughterhouse, for example, has daily inspections, while a potato producer or packer may only need one ordinary inspection visit annually.
Inspectors visit organic crop producing farms at least once during the growing season and in addition about 25 per cent of organic farms are visited at random without notice during the year. All authorized organic crop producing farms submit a report every year. This report is the basis of the inspection. The inspectors also review the accounts and check that vouchers, feeding plans and the log of drug use are satisfactory. The animals and their housing are inspected and the inspectors check that the food available is in accordance with the rules.
During an inspection visit to a farm, an inspection report is drafted. The inspection report is the basis for continued authorization of the farm. Deviations from the rules may result in warnings or a prohibition against marketing the products as organic for a period. Serious violations may result in fines, or the license may be withdrawn.
All inspectors have relevant education in e.g. agriculture, food science or veterinary science, and they are full-time employees of local inspection units. As the inspectors also carry out inspection according to the ordinary food legislation in addition to the rules on organic production, they make inspection visits quite often and have a thorough knowledge of the production form or type of undertaking involved.
The inspectors' competence in organic farming is ensured through their attendance at annual courses both for new and experienced inspectors, through working groups and detailed inspection manuals.
Fraudulent production is reported to the police
The Danish authorities intervene if irregularities occur in the organic production.
Direct fraud is reported to the police, and in case of serious or persistent violation of the rules, the undertaking is divested of the right to market organic products for a period of up to five years. Minor violations are handled through the imposition of orders, administrative fines or prohibition against marketing a product.
Any violation of the rules on organic production resulting in a fine or marketing prohibition is published, which is believed to have a great preventive effect.
The Ø logo
The Ø logo is an inspection label. From its very introduction, it has been of great importance to the credibility of the inspection of organic foods in Denmark.
The red Ø logo shows that the latest preparation of the product has taken place in a Danish company inspected by the public authorities. Therefore, the logo can be seen on both foods that originate from Danish organic farms and on imported foods that are processed, packed or labeled in Denmark.
The EU logo
The EU logo shows that the organic product is produced and controlled according to the standards in the European legislation (2092/91). It is voluntary to use the Ø logo and mandatory to use the EU logo.