At an exhibition featuring local and regional food manufacturers we did our rounds to discover a confusing medley of vendors, producers and distributors touting everything from Organic, to Natural to Sustainably Produced.
Some confused organic with natural in which case they would nod enthusiastically when asked "Is it organic?" What stumped them was, of course, the question "Is it Certified Organic?" Very few vendors touted the certification necessary to make that statement.
Returning home with an armful of brochures, flyers and product samples we recognized the one thing we didn't find at the exhibition. Clarity about what Organic really means to the consumer. So in the weeks that followed we began investigating. And guess what we found.
Sri Lanka is swimming in a vast sea of products labeled "natural" which are actually natural raw ingredients that are synthetically processed after its grown. So the question you need to ask as a consumer should be "How much added sugar, added fat, added preservatives are going into this naturally produced original product?"
What is the difference really? And how do you know what's organic - what's natural - and what's bio? Here's a small guide we think you might find useful to figure it out.
What does it all mean?
Certified Organic A determination made by a certifying body that a production or processing operation meets minimum organic standards. A certificate is issued documenting the compliance and permitting the operation to use the certifier’s logo and certification number on the product. Products certified by key certification bodies such as the USDA(United States) Control Union Certification(European Union) and JAS (Japan)
Organic Grown or Produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetically modified organisms. Organic production promotes the use of sustainable systems, respecting ecological balance.
Natural The term “natural” is not well understood with respect to food products. Sri Lankan labelling regulations state:
But the term natural is so often used in conjunction with health food marketing, it has few regulatory controls to its use on products. Natural does not indicate that a product is organic, or that it is necessarily healthy. You're bound to find the word Natural or Naturally on jams, sauces, and highly processed products which have additives, pesticides, sugar and more salt than your daily intake.
On the other hand, "Organic" is also a confusing label but a general rule should be to always stick with "Certified Organic" and if you trust your vendor or seller who sells "100% Organic" then you are in good hands.
Take nothing at face value though and remember to be a conscious consumer who asks questions.