What Are Certified Organic Handlers?
WHAT ARE CERTIFIED ORGANIC HANDLERS?
Just when you thought you knew all that you needed to know about the whole certified organic process, we’re going to keep you on your toes and add a new, variable to the mix: certified organic handlers. A handler is quite simply a person, company, manufacturer, or other entity that acts as a middleman from farmer to consumer.
The vast majority of all food goes though some type of channel and rarely goes from farm directly to consumer. Certified organic handlers can perform any of the following functions: packing, shipping, manufacturing, processing, brokering, wholesaling, or distributing.
Some requisites of becoming a certified organic handler includes:
- Handlers that sell more than $5,000 of organic processed food, including handlers that place bulk products into smaller packages or that repackage/relabel products.
- Processors that sell more than $5,000 of organic processed products, unless all products contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients or only identify the organic ingredients in the ingredient statement.
- Vendors that handle (e.g. package) and sell products online (but not in stores) or otherwise deliver organic products.
Again because most food goes through some type of channel prior to leaving the farm and onto the consumer’s table, the variance of certified organic handlers are really immense. For instance, organic cereal, organic ketchup, organic frozen dinners to organic cookies and organic tortilla chips all consist of multiple ingredients, hence need to be handled and curated to the final product, which of course needs to follow the same set of stringent rules to protect the end consumers.
Take organic ketchup for example, it usually has organic tomatoes, organic cane sugar or organic agave, organic vinegar, and organic spices. In order for this product to be considered certified organic per the USDA’s standards, the handler needs to verify that indeed all of those ingredients are organic. The handler in this case is probably going to be the manufacturer.
Whereas, a large organic produce distributor who is funneling in produce from around the country and selling it to retailers and wholesalers as organic, would be the one typically responsible for obtaining a certified organic handler classification.
Depending upon the product and where it is in supply chain and what the end goal for the product to be can influence who is responsible for obtaining certification. Grocery stores, retailers and other entities solely selling the product are typically exempt from getting certified.