Did you know to be certified as organic, that only 95% of the ingredients need to be organic? The 5% tolerance allows for things like preservatives and thickening agents to be added e.g. Xanthum gum. These may be necessary additions for some products and 95% is a very high standard. For us though, we made the decision at WHEY AHEAD® HQ, to go 100% organic. This means that every single ingredient we use in our products is certified organic. No hidden additions. No nasties.
What pains us, is that there are so many false claims out there. We've seen 'organic' on the packaging of some products but unless you see the EU organic leaf, USDA logo or equivalent, then it's not certified or inspected as organic. Without these, the producer has most likely cut corners and not used the required 95% organic ingredients so would never actually gain certification, or even worse, they are just advertising as organic to gain competitive advantage and their ingredients aren't organic at all! Grrr!
The next thing we wanted to share is around 'reduced fat or light' labelling on foods & drinks. People often grab these items thinking they are the healthier alternative to their regular, fuller fat purchase. The thing is, in order to use the claim 'reduced fat or light', the product simply has to have 30% less fat than the competition. E.g. if we are talking about butter and there was 88g fat per 100g, a product which had 62g per 100g could claim that it was 'reduced fat'. However, you still might not deem this as low! Food for thought when it comes to looking at labels. It's always best to turn the product over and look at the nutrient content rather than rely on the eye-catching front labels on the front of the packaging. A similar rationale is applied to 'high protein', 'reduced salt' etc.
With more people leading health conscious lifestyles, there has been an increase in the use of words like 'pure', 'raw' and 'natural'. How do you define pure? For us, it means the simplest form of an ingredient without any hidden nasties. So if you put pure organic cacao into a protein bar but then add thickening agents, emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners and fillers, is is still pure? In our minds, no. It's been contaminated with artificial additions. We believe brands need to be very careful about the way they use the word pure or it literally erodes its value.
'Raw' means untreated and unprocessed. When something is raw, it's straight from the plant or ground and nothing has been added to it during the process of making the end product. It's being used so much lately in relation to smoothies or cold press juices that it' getting blurred. For example, if you literally blitz up a carrot, wheatgrass, an orange and some apple juice in a blender, you'd think you could say 'raw, cold pressed or something' right? But where did the carrot, wheatgrass, orange and apple juice come from? Were they genetically modified, were pesticides used to spray them whilst they grew? Was the apple juice from concentrate? These are all the types of hidden questions we believe are important for transparency when using these descriptions.
'Natural' is even more difficult because pretty much anything can be called natural. Water is natural but if it's polluted, you probably wouldn't drink it. Eggs are natural but if they've come from caged hens, you might not want to eat them from an ethical standpoint. Natural is a clever marketing term used to make you feel good about the product. It conjures up images of countryside and greenery in our minds. But again, what does it mean to you? We only ever use the term 'natural' when talking about our ingredients because for us, organic is the natural state of food & drink. How nature intended. No fertilisers or pesticides were used in the farming and no chemicals were added to the end product. It's bare essential stuff. Natural.
'Grass-fed' is an interesting one you might not be aware of. With the growth in paleo eating (eating like a cave-man or woman), grass-fed has become a really popular buzz-word. The true definition of grass-fed is >60% of the cows' diet must come from grass. However there seems to be no regulation around using this term so everyone is using grass-fed to demonstrate their produce is free-range or 'green'. Our grass-fed cows are organic and free-roaming. Fact. They have year-around access to green, grassy pastures rather than being locked up in a barn. Organic also goes way further than other production techniques to ensure animal welfare and access to green pastures. Read our last blog which touches on the treatment of free-range vs. organic hens.
Onto our last point; GMOs. They stand for Genetically Modified Organisms. You'll see a lot of packaging stating GMO-free but unless the product is organic, we cannot see how is this regulated or assured as such? With organic certification, we are regulated & inspected against a tough set of guidelines on the ingredients and processes used to make our products. GMO is forbidden in organic so it goes without saying that the produce is GMO free. How can non-organic companies ensure this when some of the hidden ingredients might have been tampered with in a lab? Be sure to check your labels or ask questions folks.
With so much information out there it's really hard to see the wood through the trees! If in any doubt, we would always suggest going to the sites which govern this stuff. The Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is a good starting point and certification bodies like Organic Farmers & Growers, the Soil Association, etc. will give you a good source for looking up organic produce.
We're must emphasise that we don't want you to experience 'paralysis by analysis' as we all have to eat and drink. Just take extra care when looking at your labels to make sure it is what is says it is and it's not deliberately misleading you for a quick buck. We hate misguidance as we really care about you, our friends of WHEY AHEAD®, our customers, and keeping everyone informed. It's the honest and ethical way forward and what we stand for. Keep it real fitfam:) More from our nutrition blog here.