Lizzie Vann, the businesswoman behind the Baby Organix brand of organic baby food, is calling for tighter regulations to close “important loopholes in the certification of organic food”.

A six-month investigation carried out by Vann’s company Organix Brands revealed a number of areas of concern. These include:

  • Confusing regulations covering imported organic ingredients, with no one body taking overall responsibility for the integrity of the organic food chain.

  • Poor understanding by regulators of the risk of residues getting into organic foods.

  • No obligatory testing or guidance on the level of residues allowed in organic foods.

  • Inconsistent interpretation of organic rules covering processing, packaging, storage and transport. This could mean that organic food is contaminated by the dregs of non-organic food previously held in the same containers.

Few people in the organics sector will be surprised by the findings of the report, as debate over inconsistent standards has been rumbling on for years. Organix Brands launched the inquiry after it discovered in February this year that up to 16% of the organic ingredients it was being offered for sale contained low levels of pesticide residues – despite the fact that it specifies all its ingredients are grown without pesticides.

Organix said it has called together regulators including trading standards officers, the Soil Association and DEFRA’s (the newly formed Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Pesticide Safety Directorate to alert them to the problem.

Vann is calling on regulators to launch a detailed independent study into the risk of residues being found in organic foods. She as also urged regular testing of all organic food by regulators, and publication of the results on the Internet, and has called for tighter rules on organic foods covering segregation and traceability through stages of transport, warehousing, processing, packaging and storage.

The initiative highlights the difficulties facing food manufacturers trying to source organic ingredients, and the very real danger that consumer confidence in organic food will be undermined as the organic food chain is revealed to be open to abuse.