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


How do I convert my kitchen to organic?

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I’m here to share my experience with organic food and how it changed my kitchen!

My kitchen still functions the same with any recipe from any cuisine that I like to cook. The only thing that has changed is that 99% of the ingredients that I use now are sans pesticide. Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it….

There is a lot of information on the internet telling you that organic food is good for you or that there is no proven fact that organic food is more healthier compared to the conventional food. My theory is very simple, if my food is grown artificially or ripened or polished with the stuff that I cannot even pronounce, I prefer to stay away. I like my bottle of peanut butter to taste like peanuts and nothing else. For me, it doesn’t matter if I have to consume my condiments within a certain period of time. I prefer it this way as it gives me more confidence that there has been nothing artificial added to it to make it last long.

I was first introduced to the term ‘organic’ when I was interning in an Architect’s office in Auroville. I used to have my lunch everyday at the solar kitchen where most of the ingredients were grown locally and were organic. As a young individual, I never realised the importance and forgot all about it. In the year 2011, I was reintroduced  to organic produce through Farmer’s Market. This is when I took notice. The first thing that hit me was the taste. The produce were not only fresh but had a sweet, refreshing taste. I started cooking with organic produce and noticed that my cooking tasted of pure ingredients and that I didn’t have to do too much to enhance it. Thus my journey to  learn about different organic ingredients started.

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My approach has been slow but consistent. Organic food is 10-20% higher priced than conventional foods. My theory here is more simple, If I’m cutting down on my one or two bill(s) of eating out, I can buy better quality ingredients for my family.  I first made a note of all the ingredients that we consume at home and narrowed it down to the most consumed first. For example, rice is the most consumed ingredient at home and I changed it to organic first. I gradually made a progress and have converted my kitchen into an organic one over a period of 12 months. Now we eat out less and still save more on groceries than before!!

I eat organic food and I’m not a vegetarian!

It is very difficult to source organic meat. I’m told that there are organic chicken available in some parts of India. I haven’t come across any and I don’t see it available in Mumbai or Bangalore (as a retail product). I do eat fee range chicken or eggs and studies have proven that they contain more nutrition than the injected ones. I have shared more information on free range in my old blog post. I prefer the locally available seasonal fish in comparison to the frozen ones.

Does organic food taste good?

I’ve been asked this question by several people. I hope the pictures convince you that organic food is not boring as it may sound 🙂

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lettuce wraps 1

Asian style lettuce wrap with i2cook’s peanut butter. Click on the image to view recipe.

Millet & sundried banana bread

Crackly dried fruit bread with coconut oil. Click on the image to view recipe.

Do I eat out?

As a blogger, I get invited to a lot of restaurants for tasting. Organic food is a part of my daily diet and I tend to be strict about it at home. However, there are some exclusive restaurants in different parts of the country serving some locally produced and organic food like Tattva in Delhi, Carrots in Bangalore or The Pantry, Birdsong in Mumbai.

Where to buy organic food?

There are a lot of options now from where you can buy organic food. Our online store i2cook is a 100% organic store. There are also stores in different cities which stock fresh organic produce from nearby farms. Cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are holding Farmers market selling organic produce regularly. Esvasa has a good list of stores across India selling organic produce.

Read more….

Debate on organic food

Organic vs. conventional & a chart for fruits/vegetables

Why organic food might be worth all that cost….