How To Tell If Your Food Is Really Organic!
There has been a lot of talk on organic food. But if there is one question that has emerged among consumers, it is that of transparency. How do we know for sure that the food we are getting is actually organic or not? Let’s break it down for you and help you get to those answers.
There Has Been Organic Certification Systems in Place
Since 2001, organic farming has been promoted in the country through third-party certification systems. The main are – the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), which is run by the Agricultural & Processed Foods Export Development Authority (APEDA) of the Ministry of Commerce. Products certified under this programme carry the India Organic Logo. Another system, which began in 2015 is the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), where groups of farmers take the onus on themselves to inspect each other’s farm land and guarantee organic credentials. The PGS-India programme is run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare. If a farm is transitioning to becoming an organic farm, its produce is given the PGS-India Green logo. On completion of three years, the average time take for a non-organic farm to turn organic completely, the produce is given the PGS-India Organic logo. These are the logos that consumers needed to look for.
What has changed as recently as a year ago, and which a consumer should know, is that the Indian government has now taken up the lead in organic certifications. This is especially noteworthy considering that internationally, certification has always been left to autonomous third parties. This lead has been taken with the Food Safety and Standards Association of India (FSSAI) at the helm of affairs. It has brought out the draft FSSAI (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017 which will come into effect on July 1st 2018.
Making Organic Certification More Transparent
“Rather than building a new certification – we thought of bringing the various certification systems around under the common umbrella of the FSSAI,” says FSSAI CEO, Pawan Kumar Agarwal. “We brought together the NPOP and PGS under the FSSAI. What these lacked, despite being managed by governmental agencies was legal tooth, which the FSSAI has brought in. There are now penal provisions in place for those who sell food that is wrongly portrayed as organic. By bringing a regulation around organic food – its integrity has been kept intact”.
For the convenience of consumers, the FSSAI also has an organic food directory, integrated database. The idea is that all organic food sold in the country has to find a place on this database. This is based on data collected by APEDA and now serves as a common database for the country. The purpose of putting together the food data base is to ensure that the whole traceability of organic food can be mapped. Internationally, there are systems in place to ensure traceability is right up to the farm level and the aim of the FSSAI is to achieve this level of traceability.
How Can You Recognize Organic Produce
- Look for the FSSAI Logo and License number. In case of NPOP certified Food Product look for the India Organic Logo, name and logo of the accredited certification body, accreditation number. In case of PGS-certified food products PGS-India Logo and unique ID code will be there. The FSSAI has released a unified logo for organic foods, with the tagline Jaivik Bharat, which will come into effect once it is notified in the Gazette of India.
- A single ingredient product labelled under the NPOP system which completely meets all requirements of being organic, will be labelled “Organic”. In the case of multi-ingredients, where only 95% of the ingredients are certified to be organic, the label will be “certified organic”.
- Under the PGS-India scheme – products from a farm in the process of going organic are labelled PGS-India Green. Those that come from completely organic farms are labelled PGS-India Organic.
There is a long way to go to making organic food a way of life – right from the level of production to that of retail and consumption. But with more organized protocols such as these in place, we seem to be heading in the right direction.
Tags : Agricultural & Processed Foods Export Development Authority, APEDA, Certified Organic, Food Safety and Standards Association of India, FSSAI, Government Certification, Jaivik Bharat, National Programme for Organic Production, Oraganic, Organic Certification, Organic Food, Organic Ingredients, Participatory Guarantee System, Pawan Kumar Agarwal, PGS-India scheme, Ruth DSouza Prabhu