Organic certification is part of the critical infrastructure of food and agriculture, an essential service. During a public health pandemic with widespread stay-at-home orders, CCOF is using novel inspection techniques to continue providing essential food system services while adhering to social distancing practices as recommended by government health agencies. All certified operations should remain inspection-ready and maintain required records and a current organic system plan.
CCOF has issued guidelines to inspectors for conducting virtual inspections during the pandemic. Normally, inspections occur onsite and in-person. CCOF introduced hybrid inspections in April, which include a virtual interview and a brief socially distanced onsite component. CCOF will now start to conduct more virtual inspections, which occur fully remotely with no on-site portion, for operations that meet certain criteria. Your inspector will notify you if your operation is eligible for a 100% virtual inspection when initiating scheduling. New operations seeking certification, operations based in Mexico, and those that do not meet the set criteria will not be eligible for a 100% virtual inspection and must undergo a hybrid or full onsite inspection.
The virtual inspection will utilize electronic communication platforms for interviews and document reviews. The inspector will arrange a pre-inspection meeting with you to develop and agree upon an inspection plan that is suitable for your operation and communication capabilities. The inspector may request that records be sent ahead of time for review. Together you will determine what software and device platforms are available and best suited to the scope and structure of your records and documents. Optimally this will include webcams and screen sharing for the office portion, and a smart phone with live camera app for viewing all or parts of your production sites. In locations without consistent cell service, photos or video footage may suffice.
Inspectors and producers will need to be flexible to work with whatever virtual tools are available. If the desired and optimal technologies are outside of your capability, consider whether you have a family member, employee, or friend who could provide assistance. Whenever CCOF is unable to verify essential compliance points during any inspection, a follow up inspection may be required.
We thank you for your cooperation and flexibility as we work together to continue producing organic food and upholding high standards of integrity in our organic certification.
If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to us directly at Inspectionoperations@ccof.org.