Think all certified organic food is created equal? Think again.
Before I talk about what I don’t like about certified organic foods, it’s important that you know that I do support this industry. Despite some of the Australian organic standards being archaic, the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) certify many brilliant products including Changing Habits foods.
Despite this, there are some loopholes and some big players in the food industry realise that organic is a buzzword and they are muscling their way into the market. They are there to make money from the organic movement, not because they have any ethical commitment to it.
Last year, Changing Habits was nominated for organic influencer of the year. I don’t know who nominated us and we submitted nothing to the committee so I’m not sure what they knew about us. We didn’t win – Mukti, a skincare provider and Sunshine Coast local, won the award. I was very excited for her as she is a friend and a great influencer in the skincare market.
While I was at the awards, I met a young lady who represented drinks brand Monster, who have entered the organic stage. They have a certified organic energy drink. I read the ingredients and I won’t be drinking it anytime soon. My focus in this article is not them, they merely represent what is happening.
Reading Labels is Important – Even When it Comes to Organic Foods
I want to focus on some corn chips I came across that were certified organic.
I was at a party and one of the women who knew me was very proud to tell me she had brought along some certified organic corn chips. I’m an obsessive label reader, and I had not seen these chips before so flipped them over to find the following ingredients:
Organic corn, organic palm olein oil, cheese flavour (5%) whey powder (milk solids) salt, lactose, vegetable powders, sugar, yeast extract, natural flavour (milk), colour (paprika oleoresin), food acid (298 or 296) cheese flavour, spices, spice extract.
I don’t know about you, but I was absolutely floored that this product could possibly be certified organic.
I would have expected this type of ingredient list in something found in a conventional food store making no claims on the health or organic nature of the product.
Let’s take a look at each of the ingredients:
Organic corn – no issues here.
Organic palm olein oil – let’s talk about this one. How do you make palm oil into palm olein oil? The oil has to be processed by fractionation either using solvents or physical means. Most of the tryglycerides are removed. This oil stays stable for up to 5 days of frying for 8 hours a day. Here is an extract from the patent for producing palm olein oil (I could not find a patent for organic palm olein oil. Perhaps the palm oil was certified organic before the processing took place. I can’t be sure on this fact.):
“A preferred palm olein oil is deodorised palm olein oil or refined palm olein oil. The palm olein may be refined by chemical means or by physical means. Typical chemical refining comprises steps of contacting the palm olein with caustic, washing the caustic containing material, bleaching and then deodorising. Typical physical refining comprises the steps of bleaching the palm olein, deodorising and then “stripping off” under a vacuum with steam injection. A preferred palm olein oil is deodorised palm olein oil. When the palm olein oil is deodorised palm olein oil, the ester of (i) lactic acid or fumaric acid and (ii) a C12 to C22 fatty acid, or a salt thereof, may be added to the oil before or after deodorization. it is preferred to add the ester/salt after deodorization because the ester/salt may have a tendency to act as an interesterification catalyst” (1)
Cheese flavour – it’s on the ingredient list twice and milk flavour is also on the ingredient list. Flavours are a term either natural or artificial that fronts a barage of chemicals behind the name – no less than 48 will be in each of the flavours including solvents, diactyls and so much more. So if we multiply 3 flavours by 48 we get the stunning number of chemicals equaling 144 at minimum…there could be more. I write about flavours in the 2018 edition of my book Changing Habits Changing Lives. Please do not be complacent as to what the terms flavour, artificial flavour and natural flavour really mean and be vigilant to keep them out of your diet.
The Australian Food Standards do not have any information about what natural should mean on a food package.(2) In other words anyone can put it on the label, without restriction. The Australian Organic Standard (3) allows natural flavour and cheese flavour as long as it is not made using GM technology nor irradiated (annex III of ACOS 2017, appendix G of the national standard for organic and biodynamic produce 3.7). (3) The cheese flavour has specifically been assessed for compliance with the standards.
I’m a little disturbed and miffed that this is allowed and I will not have it in any food that I sell or eat, whether it is compliant or not with organic standards.
The organic standards also have a loophole where, generally, organic certification allows for minor ingredients of up to 5% to be non-organic but only where organic versions are not available. Organic standards worldwide have this allowance as some ingredients just aren’t available in organic form. Availability of organic versions of the non-organic minor ingredients must be reviewed annually, and manufacturers must switch to organic as they become available.
I guess it’s up to you to make your decision on this one.
‘Organic’ Does Not Necessarily Mean ‘Healthy’
Don’t get me wrong, I think that most of the organic foods and the people bringing them to you have the best interests of people, animals and the planet at heart. But because organic can mean big money, there are others who have no idea and don’t care, but know the loopholes and enter the market purely for financial gain. It’s up to you as a consumer to become educated and aware that the term ‘certified organic’ does not necessarily mean completely organic, nor does it mean healthy.
I saw a cured meat product recently that was certified organic but had rosemary extract, celery powder and vegetable and spice extracts in the ingredients. I also explain what these new ‘wholesome’ terms really mean in my 2018 version of Changing Habits Changing Lives.
Food manufacturers are masters of making you think that you are eating the real deal when in fact you may be eating something completely chemical that smells like food, tastes like food, looks like food but may not be food.
I’m for the one ingredient pantry, where everything in your pantry is one ingredient, allowing you to make many dishes without a package in sight. We have to get back into the kitchen to feed and nourish our families to help heal a community, a country and a planet.
Buy Real, Organic Food
By buying organic, single ingredient foods, or packaged foods with only real foods on the ingredient list (no flavours, malic acids, citric acids, rosemary extracts, celery powder, yeast extracts and the like) and supporting your local biodynamic farmer at the farmers market, you become part of the solution not part of the problem. Organic farmers have the ability to tackle climate change with their practices. With more organic matter in the soil and more microbes, they sequester carbon at a rate greater than anything else we are trying to do to divert the climate change disaster that everyone is talking about.
While I’m a little angry about the current organic food standards, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but make you aware of what is happening. Just because it says certified organic on a packet of cured meat, corn chips or energy drink, it does not mean that it is healthy for you.
The organic term and movement is far greater than the organic certification of a product with food additives. Organic to me is protecting the health of animals, plants and humans. Most food additives we are discussing in this article do not do this; they are part of a food industry and an agricultural industry that is leading the way in causing more pollution and carbon release into the atmosphere.
Let’s continue with the ingredients:
Whey powder – if the whey powder is instantised then other ingredients may include canola oil and soya emulsifier. You may not see them on the ingredients list but they are on the spec sheets given to food manufacturers and these do not need to go on the ingredient list. The soya and the canola may be organic but they are processed foods.
Colour (paprika oleoresin) – it sounds real, but here is an extract from the patent. In this process they have used chilli, but you can go on line and see the same preparation for paprika:
“The present invention relates to a process for obtaining oleoresin of improved color and pungency from chili, the said process comprising steps of: treating powder or flakes of chili by mixing with a multi enzyme preparation, incubating at a particular range pH, drying the enzyme treated chili powder/flakes to bring down the moisture level of about 5–12%, powdering or pelletizing to a particle size of about 20–30 mesh, soaking and extracting using a mixture of solvent for a period ranging between 1h to 3h; repeating the extraction and pooling the extracts, and concentrating the pooled extract to obtain oleoresin with enriched pungency and color.” (4)
Vegetable powders – I talk about these in depth in the 2018 version of Changing Habits Changing Lives, but briefly these powders are pulverized and micronized.
While this may sound harmless, we are eating a food that is completely devoid of any life and, frankly, what’s the point?
Food acid 296 is malic acid – this occurs in two molecules, the D- and L- forms. L-malic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid that is used in the body to derive ATP (adenosine triphosphate, our energy) from food. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially apples. Commercial malic acid is usually a mixture of the two types, synthesised by heating maleic acid with dilute sulphuric acid, under pressure, which can be corrosive. Infants and young children should avoid it. It is found in potato snacks, confectionery, spaghetti sauce, frozen vegetables, tinned tomatoes. (5) (6)
Yeast extract is approved by the Australian organic standard. I’m researching this term and product further at the moment. I do write about it in the latest version of Changing Habits Changing Lives, but I’m learning more about it and need to understand it better. Stay tuned.
Spice extract is an extract, it is not the spice. Following is the abstract and summary of how to create a spice extract:
“A process for the production of an aromatic spice extract, which comprises
(a) grinding a spice and collecting an aromatic fraction A, consisting of the gases given off during grinding,
(b) treating the spice with an apolar organic solvent so as to obtain an aromatic fraction B contained in this apolar solvent, and
(c) treating the spice with at least one polar solvent so as to obtain an aromatic fraction C contained in this polar solvent, The combination of the aromatic fractions A, B and C constituting the aromatic spice extract. The polar and apolar organic solvents may be used in mixture, especially in azeotropic mixture.” (7)
I have given you references for all that I’ve written about. You can go and read them; sometimes I roll my eyes and wonder how they ever figured out how to do the processes in order to make the extracts, powders, colours, flavours and so on. Chemists are masters at their trade and I’m in awe of them, but I’m not going to fall prey to the food industry’s trickery.
Why You Can Trust Changing Habits Products
Changing Habits is a certified organic food company. Most of our foods are certified organic or spray free or natural (in the real sense of the word). Our company is strict on the foods we source – we want our foods to be FOREST – Foods that are organic, regenerative, ethical, sustainable and trusted. We pride ourselves on the organic certification. When we source a food we research everything we can about it; we leave no stone unturned. We want to know not only that the food is organic, but the farmers have regenerative and biodynamic principles.
Changing Habits, our team, my husband and myself want to be the change we want to see in the world and go to great lengths to obtain ethical foods without any additives. You can be assured that we do our research and you can trust what you buy from us – if it’s in my pantry at home it’s allowed in the Changing Habits Marketplace.
I’m Attila the Hun when it comes to food and I’ll continue to educate you on the food industry, the organic industry, and its standards, so that you can make educated choices for yourself and your family.