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FAQ Natural food and Products - Frequently Asked Questions - Organic Link - ITC(7)

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     Which quality and technical standards are relevant for trade in natural products?

     Quality standards and technical specifications vary greatly between the different industries within which natural products may be sold. However, some raw materials may have several end-uses and be used as ingredients in different industries. Most standards apply to the production and handling within the import markets, hence they are of less direct relevance to the stage of collection/cultivation and drying. Most relevant standards for this stage are those of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The Codex Alimentarius Commission ( has published several documents on relevant good agricultural practices. Also, the Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP) for Medicinal Plants, published by the World Health Organisation, WHO, ( is of particular relevance. The standard concerns the cultivation and collection of medicinal plants and include certain post-harvest operations. It is the first step in quality assurance, on which the safety and efficacy of herbal medicinal products directly depend. While Good Agricultural Practices are relevant at the pre-harvest level and during drying and storage, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are relevant during the processing and distribution of various products. GMP is of particular relevance for ingredients for use in the medicines and cosmetics industries. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system is of particular interest for natural ingredients for use in the food industry. It is an all-encompassing integrated food safety management system that is used to identify and control hazards within the production and processing system. A HACCP system should be built on sound GAPs and GMPs. GMPs and HACCP are to some degree extended to producers of starting materials. In addition to these general standards, many importers may have their own technical and product quality specifications that suppliers will have to comply with. Those may be specified in Material safety data sheets and technical data sheets and contain standards for chemical and physical properties, content of mycotoxins and microbiology, active substances, etc., depending on the end use of the products. Those standards will also reflect legal and market requirements in relevant markets. Potential buyers are likely to ask for product samples, which they will have quality tested. Exporters should be able to provide detailed information about their products, and provide consistent and reliable product quality. The series of ISO 9000 is an example of a quality management system to be implemented in an organization. More information is available at Although suppliers of raw natural products often are not obliged to get certified against these standards, those that do will have a competitive advantage.