The growing popularity of organic foods has led to a greater demand for organic products and meat; people are slowly recognising the long-term benefits of consuming food produced or grown without the use of artificial additives. As several companies and local producers rush to meet the growing demand for organic food, a pertinent question arises: is the food we buy really organic?
It is not uncommon for manufacturers to use unfair practises and get away with loopholes in food labelling standards. There may also be a chance that we, as consumers, consider natural or free-range foods to be organic. There is a global movement to persuade lawmakers to force GMO foods to put GMO labels on their food and openly declare how it is grown so that all other foods without such labels are, of course, considered organic. To protect ourselves from scrupulous practises and buy only authentic organic food, here are a few steps and precautions to take.
1. Organic Food Fundamentals:
To really understand what you eat is organic, you need to fully understand what organic food really is. Organic food can be defined as products derived from organic farming practices without the use of chemical or synthetic additives, taking into account the purpose of sustainability, health and safety of the environment, food, and consumers of such food. The common misconception in the case of organic foods is the liberal use of the term organic to refer to natural or free-range foods. Natural food and free-range food are not the same as organic food. Natural foods or ingredients refer to foods that have undergone minimal processing, with no guarantee of cultivation procedures and synthetic additives. Free range primarily refers to livestock farming where the animals are allowed to roam freely outside.
2. Carefully examine the labels! :
While labels provide vital information when it comes to ingredients, food processing, and the like, it’s important to get into the habit of perusing not only the bold headings on the label but also the fine print. It is a legal requirement for manufacturers to clearly label foods as what they are, organic or not. If you come across a product that says ‘Organic’ or ‘Certified Organic’, it can mean several things: the product is 100% organic; the processed food is made with organic ingredients; or the processed food contains less than 95% organic ingredients. The key is to go through the labels and make sure what you buy is either 100% organic or made with 100% organic ingredients.
3. Look for certification or authenticity symbols:
Organic food or organic products made in India bear an authentication mark or certification mark called India Organic—this mark is an indicator of the product or food product meeting the national standards for organic products implemented by the Government of India through the National Program for Organic production (NPOP). This quality mark is recognised by several countries around the world.
4. Let’s look at PLUs:
Typically, price lookup codes, or PLUs, contain indicators as to whether the food product is organic or not. In several countries, an organic food is identified using the PLU code—if the code starts with the number 9, it is said to be organic, based on the code classification. While this is not common in India, it is best to research the price codes in your regular supermarket to understand how they identify organic products.
Organic foods have several health and environmental benefits—the key is to identify the authentic ones. While it’s easy to be misled into relying solely on labels, it’s not that hard to equip yourself with the various ways to distinguish real organic foods from fake or mislabeled ones.