We support the idea of transparency. So here’s a behind the scenes look at what it took for us to be a Certified Organic Facility. Hopefully it gives you a better idea of where your food comes from before it gets to your plate. Or, we hope its helpful to other companies thinking about getting their organic certification. Straight from our Head of Certifications and Quality Assurance, Sahar Goshayeshi:
LCN: What do you do at Left Coast Naturals?
Sahar: I do anything from training staff to identify which products meet our quality specifications to investigating customer complaints. For certifications, I make sure our organic, non-GMO, gluten free certifications, etc. are up to date. I also ensure all of our suppliers’ organic certifications are updated.
LCN: People are familiar with what organic farming is. But Left Coast Naturals is a manufacturer and distributor and is still recognized as a “certified organic facility.” What does that mean?
Sahar: For the production part of our operations, it means we use organic ingredients to make organic products.
But for the distribution portion it means we collect the organic certifications from all of our suppliers and present them to our certifying body, Pro-Cert. We have them reassessed for compliance with approved national standards. For example, if we have an American supplier with a NOP (National Organic Program) certification, this certification is not recognized in Canada. So we take on the responsibility and go the extra step to make sure the foods are COR (Canada Organic Regime) certified.
And for grocery products made by brands we distribute—like Lotus Foods, Late July snacks, or Runa drinks—they are certified under their own companies. It’s because our Brand Manager, when curating new brands to work with, will only choose ones that have recognized certifications.
LCN: And when organic inspectors visit the facility, what are they looking at?
Sahar: They look at how we segregate organic from non-organic, which isn’t difficult because most of our products are organic. They also do random ingredient checks to make sure we’ve maintained the organic integrity of our ingredients. And they look at general cleanliness and good manufacturing practices…so something like making sure no cleaning solutions used in the facility have chemicals that will compromise our organic certification.
LCN: Is it difficult to get the organic certification?
Sahar: Becoming certified isn’t the most difficult part…though it’s a lot of paperwork! What’s important is keeping up with the annual certification renewal. You have to track down every supplier you purchased from and make sure that their organic certifications are up to date and all applications are completed before your own certification expires. You have to be very picky with suppliers, making sure that they’re reliably following up with their certifications.
LCN: And in Canada what are the requirements to have the Canada Organic logo on your products?
Sahar: You need to have at least 95% organic ingredients in your product, not including salt and water of course.
LCN: For our Left Coast Naturals Non-GMO Policy, why was it decided to accept foods that are either organic or Non-GMO Project verified? How come not all of our foods have the Non-GMO Project verification?
Sahar: Theoretically, anything organic is already non-GMO. For our own products we go the extra step of double-certifying ingredients that are higher risk for GMOs (genetically modified organisms) through the Non-GMO Project so consumers can feel confident about what they’re purchasing. The Non-GMO Project looks at the process and supply chain in depth, from seeds used to country of origin. For the bulk foods we distribute we accept them as long as they’re organic—really, we don’t even carry any bulk foods that are high risk for containing GMOs.
LCN: And when making an organic product, do you think going the extra step of getting the organic certification is important? What difference does it make?
Sahar: It’s definitely important to give confidence to customers. The process of following up on your certification pushes you to do your due diligence and pushes your suppliers to do so as well. This in turn encourages your suppliers to make sure their farmers are following approved organic standards. It’s kind of like a positive chain reaction that reforms and maintains the whole system.