Denmark has a long tradition of organic farming, and over the years organic food production has been supported by politicians, authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Effective state control throughout the whole food chain has given organic products a high degree of credibility in and outside Denmark. This is and was an important prerequisit for the high marketshare of organic products in the Danish retail market and the success in introducing organic food in the Danish food service market.
All Danish supermarkets have a wide range of organic food, but also farm outlets, internet sales and box schemes are attractive for Danish consumers. The organic food service market have been stimulated by the public sector leading the way and showing that organic catering can be more climate friendly and sustainable in many ways without being necessarily more expensive.
Legislation on organic production
Since various NGOs in Denmark have been very active in developing organic production, Denmark became the first country 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 EU regulations from 1991 on organic plant production. Today organic production is mainly governed by EU regulations developed and decided on by all EU Member States and the EU Commission.
The legislation in public law
The inspection of organic food production in Denmark is usually carried out as a part of the ordinary control in accordance to general food legislation. The inspectors are impartial and independent employed by the Danish State. They are not allowed to have personal or financial interests in the inspected undertakings. Like all Danish authorities, their work is subject to the Danish Public Access Act and the Danish Public Administration Act.
The Public Access Act secures that any Danish citizen, company 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 act is to secure transparency in public management and therefore everybody should have access to the background for decisions taken by public authorities. The Act ensures also that citizens are given the opportunity to comment onerous decision before they are finalised.
Authorisation of organic operations
All farmers need to register their organic activities with the Danish authorities, before they are allowed to start an organic operation. Before they are allowed to sell organic products, they have to be certified by the Danish Agricultural Agency. Feed and food companies are only able to to start processing and labeling organic products, after the competent authority has issued an organic report stating all the conditions for the organic activities and thereby certifying the operations.
Efficient state inspection from stable to table
It is difficult to compare private organic certification against organic state certification. Private control bodies have to be accredited by accreditation bodies to ensure independence and impartiality. Danish public authorities are subject to parliamentary control and regarded as independent and impartial as accredited private control bodies.
Only authorities under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries are allowed to carry out inspections in accordance to Danish and EU regulations for organic production. The Danish Agricultural Agency inspects orgnaic primary production, while the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration inspects organic 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 considered as one of the most efficient means when it comes to preventing actual fraudulent trade in organic products. Although few, the cases of fraud or serious mistakes have typically been discovered by comparing accounting information from different undertakings. Therefore, the Danish authorities attach great importance to crosschecking as a mean of complementing ordinary inspection on internal accounts.
Well eductated inspectors
All inspectors have to have a relevant education e.g. in agronomy, food science or veterinary science, and they are full-time employees of the competent authorities. As the inspectors also carry out inspections in accordance to general food legislation, they visit the companies often and have a thorough knowledge of the production and type of undertaking involved.
Fraudulent production is reported to the police
Danish authorities intervene, when they become aware of irregularities in the organic production.
Fraud is reported to the police and in case of serious or repeated violation of the rules, the company might be disqualified and deprived of the right to market organic products for a period of up to five years. Minor violations are handled through the imposition of sanctions, orders, administrative fines or prohibition of marketing a specific product as organic.
Any violation of the rules of organic production resulting in a fine or marketing prohibition is published on the internet, which is believed to have a great preventive effect.
The Ø logo
The Ø logo is an inspection label and shows that the latest preparation of the product has taken place at a Danish company inspected by Danish authorities. Therefore, the logo can be seen on foods that originate from Danish organic farms and on imported foods processed, packed or labeled in Denmark.
The EU logo
The EU logo shows that the organic product is produced and controlled in accordance to the standards in the European legislation. It is voluntary to use the Ø logo and mandatory to use the EU logo on prepacked organic products produced in the EU. However, the EU logo can also be used to label imported organic products.