Cleaning to Organic Standards

Organic wineries often ask us if our products comply with organic standards?  Our first question in response is which one!  The Department for Agriculture in 2010 outlined that there were in fact 7 bodies that are able to provide organic certification  (read more here).   

This provides no shortage of confusion!  We thought we’d go back to basics and see if we could clarify what organic means and how this impacts hygiene (cleaning and sanitation) product choice. 

From the department of Agriculture there were the following organisations that were accredited to provide organic certification:

AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)

ACO - Australian Certified Organic

Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (Demeter)

NASAA - The National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia

OFC - Organic Food Chain

Safe Food Production Queensland

Tasmanian Organic Dynamic Producers

(Department of Agriculture Feb 2015)

Organic certifiers all adhere to the minimum requirements set out in the National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic produce and may have further requirements on top of this.

 So what is organic?  From the Australian Government Definition we can define Organic as: 

Organic: means the application of practices that emphasise the: 

- use of renewable resources; and 

- conservation of energy, soil and water; and 

- recognition of livestock welfare needs; and 

- environmental maintenance and enhancement, while producing optimum quantities of produce without the use of artificial fertiliser or synthetic chemicals.

 

Furthermore we can define bio-dynamic as follows: 

bio-dynamic: means an agricultural system that introduces specific additional requirements to an organic system.  These are based on the application of preparations indicated by Rudolf Steiner and subsequent developments for management derived from practical application, experience and research based on these preparations.

Source National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce Edition 3.5 (Feb 2013)

We like what we’re hearing.  Using renewable resources, conservation of energy, soil and water and a conscientious approach to the environment.  We don’t think any wine maker would disagree with these concepts on the whole.

So the part we are interested in is the chemical part – where chemicals are used for cleaning and sanitation.  The good news is that hygiene is factored into producing organic wine – all the accreditation bodies that we’ve worked with and have been able to research, allow a range of chemicals to be used so long as they are followed by a potable water rinse (so that cleaning inputs don’t come into contact with organic produce). 

What is concerning is the types of chemicals that are able to be used by wineries undertaking organic production.  Our table below gives a summary of some of the inputs that are allowed under different bodies.

 

 Approved organic inputs by accreditation provider 

Approved organic inputs by accreditation provider 


Of course – if you are an organic producer you’ll need to check with your accreditor to verify this.

We think some of these chemicals need review – especially in light of the environmental conservation aims outlined in the National Standards.  The reality is that the standard allows halogens (iodine, sodium hypochlorite), quaternary ammonium and salts such as sodium and potassium hydroxide to be used so long as they don’t come into contact with the organic produce. 

We see a few issues with this as halogens are toxic to many plants, quaternary ammonium has a large environmental impact (worryingly there are some microbes that are developing a resistance to QAC - Tezel, 2009) and strong alkali salts can lead to sodic soils (you can read more on caustic here).

While we are sure many conscientious wineries won’t be going near some of these products – the fact that they are listed as inputs in national standards is a real environmental risk – completely undermining the environmental principles of what organic produce is about.  The potable water rinse – “should” mitigate the risk of using these products. In reality though, mistakes happen.  Having the chemical’s like sodium hypochlorite or QAC’s onsite at a busy time of year could mean that the very best of intentions have been mitigated by human error – in doing so contaminating what would otherwise be organic produce.

For organic producers we would always recommend using a bio-degradable detergent.  The good news is that AIRD products have always been approved for use in organic facilities.  Our products are also low salt, have a low VOC are produced from bio-degradable materials and mostly are non-dangerous (improve safety and environmental impact simultaneously).

And even if you’re not working in an organic facility – your waste water will thank you for using products that biodegrade effectively and have a low environmental impact.

Like to know more?  Talk to us.

Further Reading:

http://www.agriculture.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/aqis/exporting/food/organic/national-standard-edition-3-5.doc 

ACO  - Australian Certified Standard 2013

http://austorganic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ACOS-2013-final.pdf

Organic Standards and Certification in Australia

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/353297/Organic-Standards-and-certification-in-Australia.pdf

Tezel. U, 2009 Fate and effect of Quaternary Ammonium Compounds in Biological Systems, Georgia Institute of Tech

Interestingly from Tezel’s research:

“Given the antimicrobial properties of QACs, microbes that subsist on QACs have to also have developed resistance mechanisms.”

“…strong evidence of biodegradation potential of QACs in biological systems under aerobic, anoxic and anaerobic conditions.”