It’s the ultimate in irony when you hear the phrase “organic food”.
It means the food has been grown in a laboratory.
But what does that really mean?
The UK’s Food Standards Agency says organic food should be labelled with the words “natural”.
“Organic food has always been a label to distinguish it from conventional,” says Kate Green, a food safety specialist at the Food Standards Authority of Australia.
“Organics are not a label, they’re not a certification, they just aren’t.”
“It’s just an example of the difference between what we know to be true and what we don’t know,” Ms Green says.
“When we eat we’re thinking about what we’re looking at and not what we’ve actually eaten.”‘
It’s not the food we’re tasting’In the US, the government’s National Organic Program says “natural” is a “consensus” definition.
“It says that organic food is the food that has been prepared by an organic farmer,” says Jennifer Smith, the programme’s executive director.
“This means that the food does not have any synthetic or preservative ingredients and is free of antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals.”
“The natural flavour of a product is a part of the product, but it’s not a part that can be detected,” she says.
Ms Smith says organic foods must be labeled with the word “natural”, which is “a really important distinction to make”.
“If the food is made from organic, then there’s a certain level of assurance that it is organic, that the quality of the organic products are as high as possible and that there are no added ingredients,” she said.
“If it’s a factory-farmed product, then the certification will have a different level of certification.”
The label of organic food has to include the words organic, free of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, but “organic” does not necessarily mean “free of chemicals” in Australia.
It can also be misleading, since some organic products contain chemicals.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of the most common organic chemicals.
It says it will not issue organic food labels that list the chemicals in question, but says it is reviewing how it issues organic food label labels in the US.
“We’ve got a number of cases where labels were incorrectly issued, or even made with incorrect information,” says FDA spokesman Tom Fossey.
“As part of this review, the FDA is working with the US government to identify whether there are any new issues that we need to address.”
At this time, the agency is not considering whether it will issue organic labeling in the United States.”‘
We’re talking about the most natural food that we know’Ms Smith agrees organic food must be labelled to ensure consumers know what they are eating.”
The label has to be truthful,” she explains.”
There’s no more natural food than a supermarket organic product.
“But if you go into a supermarket you’ll find a product that has organic ingredients, but they’re in a way not organic.”
So it’s very important that the label clearly tells consumers that it’s organic.
“Food Standards Australia says the label should be “consistent with” the ingredient list on the product.
The Australian Consumer Affairs Union says “organic or natural” is not always clear, and consumers are often misled.”
Most of the time when we’re talking to consumers about the organic or natural food they are not really aware that there is such a difference between the two terms,” Ms Smith says.
The FFA says it takes “care” to ensure labels are clear.”
Consumers should be aware that organic products have a range of ingredients, and when they see the organic food name on a label they should be able to tell that the product is organic,” it says.
Food Standards Agency spokesperson Kate Green says organic ingredients must be listed on the label to avoid confusion.”
In Australia, a good example is organic fruit, which is typically grown from a variety of trees and cultivated in a controlled environment,” Ms Greens says.
It also says organic or non-organic ingredients must not be present in the product when it is ready to eat.”
Foods should not contain any ingredients that are not organic,” Ms Brown says.ABC/wires