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July 2, 2012

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Buying organic food? Look for its verification code

WHILE all organic foods on sale in China are required to have a verification code as of yesterday so buyers can track their authenticity, some food was still being sold without the codes at Shanghai wet markets.

The system is set up so buyers can use the 17-digit verification code label to check the food at a website, The labels must be affixed as the food leaves the plant.

The measure was enacted to combat fake organic foods sold at inflated prices. Organic foods are usually sold at three or four times the price of ordinary products of the same kind.

The code is randomly generated and printed on packages along with a certification mark for organic foods and organic conversion products, as well as a label of the name of certification institutes, according to the China Certification and Accreditation Administration.

But at Cao'an Vegetable Wholesale Market in the city's Putuo District, stall vendors were selling vegetables as "organic", without any certificates. The vendors said they bought the vegetables from local growers and the price was much cheaper than the same kind of vegetable with certificates.

Customers who bought fake organic foods can contact certification institutes or call 12365 and 12315 to file a complaint with local quality watchdogs.

With the codes, buyers are able to check product certificates, production enterprises and production bases of organic foods simultaneously on the same site.

To get verification codes, organic food companies should hand in application materials, relevant certificates, survey charts of farms and processing factories and test reports of water, land and air at least three months before the inspection starts.

Currently, there are some 20 third-party certification institutes that are empowered to issue organic food certificates in China and there is only one such institute in Shanghai.

Organic foods sold in local markets are usually produced with certificates issued by institutes from Beijing, Nanjing and Hangzhou. That's because the only institute located in Shanghai is specialized in issuing certificates for organic foods that are exported. The certificates are valid for one year.


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