What does the green foods logo mean? [moved from China board]
I am currently staring at a plastic-wrapped package of brown beech mushrooms that has the "green food certification"as well. More precisely, the packaging stated that the company "got the license of" the certification and "has the right to use the Green Food label". It doesn't has the A/AA designation on it.
What I'm wondering is, this thing has been sitting in the fridge for about a week, after being shipped all the way from China to here in Canada, and the mushrooms are still in pristine condition. My folks happily says that they bought it for under $2.
I can't stop thinking that, for that price especially, those mushrooms must have been armed with a chockful of preservatives and who-knows-what, to be still be able look so pretty after such a long trip, despite the proud labels.
Any opinions? If I am trying to avoid pesticides and chemicals in my diet for health reasons, should I avoid stuff like this too?
Dear Friends, apologies for the length of this posting, though i hope it will clarify some of your questions. As a Californian working in china for an organic produce company (www.shorganic.com) the differentiation and strengthening of organic apart from green food is very important.
"S" simply indicates a safety standard. Below is an excerpt from a USDA report from 2003:
5.5 San Pin (three kinds of foods
)In China, there are three food categories that are not clearly defined and often confusing to consumers and even some retailers: “no-public-harm” food, green food and organic food. The definitions for these three categories are very ambiguous. Even on the official website of the Chinese food related web pages, a consumer will not get a clear picture of the defining characteristics of each category.
5.5.1 No-public-harm Food
“No-public-harm Food” is the minimum food safety requirements developed by the Chinese government. At the current time, most Chinese food products do not meet these minimum safety standards.
5.5.2 Green Food (A grade green food)
hen a product has a green label, it means it has most likely met the basic food safety levels of most western countries – and has nothing to do with the organic standards of these countries. Under the requirements of this label, only certain chemicals can be used in limited amounts and for a limited time.
5.5.3 Organic Food (AA grade green food)
If the products received AA grade green food certification, then it meant that the products met the requirements of organic food. Hence, AA grade of green food equals organic food in China. Since many of the statistics published by the Chinese government combine A grade and AA grade green food, it is very difficult to get meaningful data to gauge the organic food market in China. As a result of increased demand in organic food, OFCC stopped using AA grade green food to address organic food items in 2003.
Today the structure of organic is similar to that of the USA. The Chinese government has an organic certification, and companies like us are certified by third party organizations just like CCOF or Soil Association. Our certifier, Organic Food Development Certification Center (OFDC) is accredited by IFOAM, an international body.
Very interesting and informative post.
I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind answering them. Forgive me if they are rather basic, as I'm not really that familiar with the organic certification process in the USA, China, or elsewhere.
Are the Chinese government standards (the "san pin") completely separate from the standards established by organizations such as the Organic Food Development Certification Center?
Can you go into a bit more detail about what "OFCC stopped using AA grade green food to address organic food items in 2003" means?
Are there essentially competing standards in China for organic food certification, with certain standards set by the Chinese government and others set by non-governmental organizations?
I think this is a really interesting topic, and if you don't mind, I would love to hear more about it.
Maybe I can help a bit. China has federally mandated regulations for what qualifies as organic, much as the U.S. does (ours is the National Organic Program, adminstered by the USDA, commonly referred to as the NOP).
OFDC is an organic certification agent that is given authority by the Chinese government to certify to the Chinese regulation. OFDC, additionally, is accredited by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) and as a program verifying compliance with those standards (probably one of the strictest organic standards internationally, but entirely voluntary, and not officially recognized by any government). OFDC also administers certification to the USDA NOP for growers and processors who are exporting to the United States. That is done through a partnership with a US-based, USDA-accredited certifier, OCIA. OFDC has a very rigorous program, and is very dedicated to ensuring organic product in China would "pass muster" for any organic regulation internationally. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked for OCIA until 2005, and audited OFDC for them in 2004 (Shanghai, if you are inspected by You Wenpeng, or Tai Chongmai, or speak at all with Xingji Xiao, those are some wonderful people, and I miss working with them!).
So, yes, there are in a way, competing standards, but that may depend on the markets that the organic entity is planning on selling to. They may just need the Chinese standard, if all the production stays in China, or they may want to work with some of the international standards, so that they can open doors for exporting.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for that, Brian. As a Californian who spends part of each year in Shanghai (for leisure, not for work) I'll definitely be interested in finding some of your offerings. Where are the markets you participate in? (This information is missing from your website.) Do you have a presence at any of the "Free" Markets? I'd be especially interested in finding you in the Hongkou/Huangpu Universities area (we have a place near Miyun Lu and Zhongshan Bei Er Lu).
Out of curiosity, how much of your delivery business is to expat customers and how much to locals?
I am familiar with the "green foods" label you are talking about, lucybobo, as I saw it quite often when I was living in China. I am pretty sure that the logo on page 7 of the document in the link that welle provided is the logo from the label I am thinking of.
Apparently the label is an indication of at least partial adherence to organic production standards set by the China Green Food Development Center, which is an agency under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture.
There are "A" and "AA" standards, with the latter more strictly restricting the use of synthetic agricultural chemicals. From what I can tell from the document linked by welle, "AA" is what would be referred to as "organic" in countries like the USA, while "A" is more of a middle ground between food produced by typical modern agricultural production methods and organic food.
As for the "S", I'm not quite sure.