How is ‘organic’ regulated in South Africa?

Consumers rely on claims or marketing terms presented on labels for guidance when purchasing food products.

Without proper guidance and regulations these terms can become meaningless, and create opportunities to mislead consumers and undermine producers.

What are the regulations relating to the use of the term ‘organic’ on foodstuffs in South Africa?

South Africa currently has no regulations that pertain to the production or labelling of organic products. In the past, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) has tried to set up regulations pertaining to the production systems for organic produce; however, this requires changes to the Agricultural Products Standards Act (no. 119 of 1990) that will allow for the auditing of a product for its management control systems. To date, the Act has not been amended.

Of note is that the Regulations Relating to the Grading, Packing and Marking of eggs (R. 345/2020) specifically prohibit ‘organic’ claims for eggs; and SAMIC (the South African Meat Industry Company, a DALRRD assignee) has registered only one quality indication mark relating to ‘organic’ for a red-meat producer.

The Foodstuff, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act (no. 54 of 1972) and the Consumer Protection Act (no. 68 of 2008) both clearly state that the consumer must not be misled. This means that where an ‘organic’ claim is presented on a label, suitable substantiation must be available upon request. This can include third-party certification by international companies such as Ecocert, CERES, Lacon, BCS-Kiwa and Control Union. Alternatively, products may also be certified through a locally-focused quality assurance system; namely Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS). PGS certifies producers through the active participation of stakeholders, and operates based on a foundation of trust and social networks.

For guidance on the production of organic produce, local producers can refer to the international regulations drawn up by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and the local standards provided by the South African Organic Sector (SAOSO) (https://www.saoso.org/certification). See also the South African National Standard on Organic Agriculture – Production and Processing (SANS 1369:2016).

Please contact FACTS to assist with evaluating the claims presented on your product labels.