Difference Between Organic & Natural Products

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Organic is a growing sector and a lot of consumers are slowing converting their kitchen to organic. Most of the stores in India store both organic and natural products and sometimes due to insufficient information on the label, the consumer is often confused.

The term “organic” and “natural”  are widely used and a lot of  consumers are not sure what it means. Let me explain to you the difference between the two.

‘Natural’ means that the product has undergone minimal processing and does not contain any preservatives or additives, but the term is not protected in any way and there is no certification. However, “all natural” term is loosely used and doesn’t have any legal definition. Natural products can also be genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Organic products are those made entirely from natural substances, which in turn have been grown eschewing the use of artificial chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. According to WHO, organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conversation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. Simply put, organic produce is grown without the use of any pesticide, synthetic fertilizer, genetically modified organisms (GMO) or sewage sludge. Animal products like meat, poultry, eggs and diary products don’t take any antibiotics or growth hormones. Animal products like meat, poultry, eggs are also termed as free-range, where the animals have outside access and is not couped up in a cell.

In India, the term “organic” is not legally protected for use in retail, and organic produce can also be sold without certification. FSSAI is currently in the process of notification of organic rules for the domestic market.

The retail chain Fabindia developed a three-tier labeling system that distinguishes between so-called natural products, products from farms in conversion to organic and fully certified organic products. ICCOA, also followed similar labeling system for vegetables sourced from Karnataka. Navdanya, the NGO gives the ‘navdanya gurantee’ for organically grown products, the credibility of which is based on the reputation of the NGO rather than on third party certification.

Organic labeling can be further categorized into 3 categories:

100% organic: made with 100% organic ingredients

Organic: made with 95% organic ingredients

Made with organic ingredients: made with organic ingredients without any certification

Since organic sector is an unorganized one in India, a lot of times you will see unbranded or non-labelled packets at stores. This may be due to several reasons, repackaging by the store (who doesn’t follow any labeling norms due to small supply), small production/supply, seasonal product, applied for certification and is in transition, cannot afford certification etc.

In Bangalore, it is common to see a lot of organic stores organizing twice a week sale of organic fruits and vegetables. These are mostly not certified and are sourced from farms on the outskirts. Organic in India, is mostly promoted on the basis of trust and the intent of the producer/seller. Since, certification cost is too high most of the small producers prefer to sell their goods through small retail outlets.

 

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Reference: Organic food marketing in urban centres of India

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Coconut Sugar – the most sustainable sugar in the world!

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Coconut sugar production is a very simple one as compared to most other sugars. There is absolutely no additives and it is prepared in the most sustainable way. I’ve been talking about this wonder sugar for some time  and its benefits. I recently visited one of the farm which produces the best coconut sugar ever!

Coconut sugar is made from the  sap of the coconut tree. This sap is collected once or twice a day and comes from the stem that would normally feed a group of coconuts. Collection of the sap is done by snipping the stem and bending it into a collection vessel, an earthen pot lined with limestone powder or chunna to avoid fermentation. The collected liquid in the collection vessel is poured into the boiling vessel which is done first thing in the morning. This is usually done early mornings when the weather is relatively cooler  within a span of four hours. This neera or palm toddy is boiled to a desired runny and sticky consistency. This is poured into molds and dried before packing.

i2cook’s coconut sugar goes into further breaking down into powder form and is sun-dried. Coconut palm sugar and palm sugar are two different types of sugar. Please refer my blog post for further clarification on different types of sugar (with GI comparison). I use coconut sugar in my tea/coffee or in my banana bread amost every other day. I use this sugar to make some coconut sugar cookies too!

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Farmer ready with his gear

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Collection of the sap is done by snipping the stem and bending it into a collection vessel

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An earthen pot lined with limestone powder or chunna to avoid fermentation

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Boiling to obtain coconut sugar

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The final prep of pouring the coconut sugar into molds

A lot of  you may be concerned about the sap being  used only in sugar production and wondering about growing coconuts… To clear your doubt – only 10-15 trees depending on the production capacity of that particular farm is kept separate for coconut sugar production only. One of the farm would only produce 10kg per day during the first half of the day and would keep the rest of the day for other work like agriculture, cattle feed etc. The trees marked for coconut sugar production are kept closer to home for a simple reason being, closer to home means closer to production/boiling facility and also  no tension of coconut falling on anyone’ head 😉

Using coconut sugar in your diet is relatively a new concept in India and I can proudly say that “i2cook” is one of the first company to launch coconut sugar as a retail product. Coconut sugar production helps farmers to gain an extra income apart from their other agricultural practices. Coconut sugar is not only good for you but also good for the environment!