First decade of the EU organic logo: What does it mean?

It’s almost a decade that EU organic logo – the ”Euro-leaf” labels organic food products sold on the EU market. Its use is mandatory since 1st July 2010 and it can be used only on products that have been certified as organic by an authorised control agency or body. The author of the well known design of the white EU stars in the shape of a leaf against a green background is Dušan Milenković, who at the time was a student from Germany with Serbian origins. In order to provide a common visual identity to EU produced organic food products, the European Commission had organized a pan-European contest open to art and design students. Almost 3,500 propositions arrived and the international jury chose the best three of them and put them to the online vote which ended on 31st January 2010. Milenković’s proposition won the sympathy of the 63% of the voters.

Label explained

The mandatory use of the logo means that is must be used on packages of all the organic food products produced within the EU if they are to be sold within the EU. The usage is optional if the products are for export. The logo is displayed together with the code number of the control body and the indication of the place where the agricultural raw materials composing the product have been farmed.

The code number is composed of the two letters expressing the ISO code for the country where the controls takeplace. It is separated by a dash from three letters which are linked with the organic production like “BIO”, “EKO” or “ORG” and similar. After another dash there is the reference number of the control body consisting of a maximum of three digits. The list of the control bodies within the EU/EEA/CH can be found here

The indication of the place is given by the expressions “EU Agriculture” if the agricultural raw material has been farmed in the EU or “non-EU Agriculture” if it has been fаrmed in third countries. When the part of it has been farmed in the EU and a part of it in a third country the indication is “EU/non-EU Agriculture”. The indication “EU” or “non-EU” can be replaced or supplemented by the name of the country if all agricultural raw materials have been farmed in that country.

The use of the EU organic logo for products imported from third countries is possible when the control authorities or control bodies of the third country are recognized as equivalent by the EU regulation.  Their being equivalent means that they implement the EU control system. The list of those control bodies and authorities can be found here

Behind the label

The most important thing for the consumers to know about products labelled with the “Euro-leaf” is that in order to be certified as organic they have to fulfil strict conditions regarding the production and processing, but also transport and storage which is in particular important in order to avoid contaminants. The products with this label contain at least 95% of organic ingredients but also respect severe conditions for the remaining 5%. Plants or crops labelled as organic are grown from seeds of other plant propagating
materials which are also organic. Livestock farmers must respect animal welfare. To be allowed to use the label, farmers, processors and  traders in organic products first must register with their local control body. If they are found compliant, they will receive a certificate to confirm that their products meet organic standards. Furthermore, they are checked at least once a year to ascertain that they are continuing to follow the rules.

National and private labels can be used and displayed next to the “Euro-leaf”. Their use is regulated by the national laws and rules of private company in the case of private labels. It’s important to note that only product originating from agriculture, including aquaculture, intended for use as food or animal feed is allowed to display the logo and therefore it cannot be found in cosmetic products or detergents.