The National Organic Program (NOP) recently announced an important clarification to the use of chlorine in organic production systems. This may require operational changes for some CCOF clients who use chlorine for postharvest washing of crops. The NOP now requires that a potable water rinse follows chlorine used in postharvest water at more than 4 parts per million (ppm). CCOF was previously able to approve the use of chlorine at levels above 4 ppm in postharvest usage because of industry confusion over the meaning of the word "residual" in the regulations. The new NOP Guidance Document 5026 (available in the NOP Program Handbook at www.ams.usda.gov/nop) clarifies that the requirements are not intended to be a waste water regulation, but instead a regulation about protecting organic integrity.
According to the NOP Guidance Document, chlorine may be used in organic production as follows:
- Preharvest crop production: if in direct crop or soil contact, no more than 4ppm chlorine
- Postharvest crop production or processing: if in direct crop or food contact, and more than 4ppm chlorine, must have a rinse with potable water
- Tool or equipment sanitation (no direct food contact): up to maximum labeled rates, no rinse required
If you are a crop producer who has been using chlorine postharvest at more than 4 ppm in direct contact with food without a subsequent rinse, you will be required to modify your practices to be compliant with the above requirements. Please contact your CCOF Regional Service Representative to discuss a timeline for coming into compliance.