Posts Tagged ‘healthy eating’

Turmeric: How To Make Fresh Turmeric Latte

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Turmeric is a really popular spice for its healthanti-inflammatory and antioxidant – properties and is also regarded as a superfood. It also makes a tasty drink, sometimes called golden latte.

There are an increasing number of ready-made powder mixes on the market, often using dried coconut powder to give turmeric latte its milkiness.  But you don’t need to buy a premade mix, and you can make turmeric latte, or golden latte, yourself.

I find it refreshing, with an earthy and warming taste, and it also looks a lovely light yellow colour.  Here we add a little black pepper which increases the bioavailability of the curcumin in the turmeric, so increasing the healthiness of this turmeric drink.

Recipe for Fresh Turmeric Latte, or Golden Milk

Enough for 2 cups/mugs of Turmeric Latte

Ingredients

500 ml Almond milk (or other dairy-free milk)
0.5 cm Fresh ginger
1 cm Fresh turmeric
Pinch Black pepper – organic
0.5 tsp Cardamom powder, or 2 whole cardamom pods – crushed – organic
0.5 tsp Cinnamon powder (optional) – organic
1 tbsp Coconut sugar or honey

1. Cut 0.5 cm of fresh ginger, then remove the skin. Grate the fresh ginger and put into a small bowl.

2. Cut 1 cm piece of fresh turmeric, then remove the skin. Grate the fresh turmeric and put into a bowl. If you’ve got some rubber gloves, it is sensible to use them as turmeric can stain your fingers!

3. If you have a pestle and mortar, put the grated ginger turmeric into this then pound it down to a mushy pulp. This will increase the potency of the curcumin extracted.

4. Alternatively, put the grated ginger and turmeric plus 100 ml of almond milk into a blender and blitz to a mushy pulp.

5. Into a ramekin or small bowl, measure the cardamom, cinnamon and pepper.

6. Pour 500ml of almond milk (or other dairy-free milk) into a small saucepan.

7. Add the fresh ginger and turmeric. Whisk the almond milk to start infusing the flavours.

8. Add the ground, dry spices. Gently whisk the milk to mix through the dried spices.

9. Gently heat the almond milk, mixing the mixture gently every so often. When the almond milk is just below boiling point, take the pan off the heat.

10. Add 0.5 to 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar or honey to taste.

11.  Whisk gently to melt and mix the sugars in.

12.  Strain through a metal sieve. Pour into two mugs and enjoy.

For a quicker turmeric latte, you can use dry powdered ginger and turmeric.

A bit about Turmeric…

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Turmeric RootSteenbergs Organic Fairtrade Turmeric comes from an organic and Fairtrade co-operative in the Kandy region of Sri Lanka. Turmeric originates from a root, known as the rhizome, Curcuma longa; it looks similar to ginger and galangal. To create turmeric powder, the turmeric rhizomes are lifted, boiled for one hour to fix the colours, dried for 10-15 days then cleaned (called polishing) before being crushed and ground.

The colour of turmeric comes from its natural curcumin colouration, although it’s commonly a bright yellow, it can also be more orange-yellow and almost brown.  Fairtrade turmeric has a distinct earthy aroma and a pleasing, sharp, bitter, spicy and lingering depth of flavour.

Turmeric has been widely used in Asia and India for centuries in cooking, and also as traditional medicines. Now, we are all beginning to understand its health benefits in a bit more detail.  As turmeric has been used as a traditional medicine, this implies that it may have health benefits, therefore here at Steenbergs we have done some googling and found that Curcumin doesn’t just give turmeric its vibrant yellow colour.

It is also the primary biologically active component of turmeric, as it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Due to this there is high interest in curcumin as a lead molecule in anti-inflammatory drug development strategies, as curcumin has potential to alleviate and prevent multiple disease conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer disease, heart disease and arthritis.

Over the last 25 years, curcumin has been extensively evaluated for its health promoting properties. Preclinical investigations provide substantial and compelling support for curcumin’s antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory properties; clinical studies are less numerous but are growing in number. For example, a head to head study carried out by W.C. Roberts found that daily ingestion of the turmeric component, curcumin can improve endothelial function just as well as up to one hour of aerobic exercise a day can! However, it was found, to get the best improvement in endothelial function a combination of both daily aerobic exercise and curcumin consumption are needed. Large clinical studies are needed to confirm the benefits of curcumin, current ongoing clinical studies should provide further insights in the future.

A problem with curcumin is that the liver sees it as being toxic, and therefore curcumin gets digested very quickly, giving it a low bioavailability. However, it has been found that when curcumin is consumed with pepper this can increase the bioavailability of curcumin. This is due to peppers active component, piperine. Piperine is an inhibitor of drug metabolism and therefore, prevents the liver breaking down curcumin. This leads to an increase curcumin in the blood, causing increased bioavailability. Therefore, consuming curcumin with pepper may enhance the potential benefits of curcumin.

A great way to try it is in a turmeric latte.

Reference: 

Singletary,K.,(2010) Turmeric: An Overview of Potential Health Benefits. Nutrition Today, 45(5), 216-225.

https://www.jenreviews.com/pepper/ – has a great article on the health benefits of pepper including 15 different pepper recipes

 Nutritional Values for Steenbergs Organic Turmeric Powder:

Values per 100g

Energy- 341kcal; 1449kj

Protein – 8.5g

Carbohydrates- 75.2g

Fat-0.7g

Values per 2.5g

Energy- 9kcal; 36kj

Protein – 0.2g

Carbohydrates- 1.9g

Fat- 0.0g

 Try turmeric now! 

Quick Quinoa And Halloumi Salad – Great Picnic Food

Friday, September 4th, 2015
Quinoa Salad With Pomegranate Seeds, Olives And Parsley

Quinoa Salad With Pomegranate Seeds, Olives And Parsley

Sophie recently been reminded of quinoa and a salad I made for a picnic earlier this summer.  We originally ate it together with several other salads and a whole array of other cold foods.

This quinoa salad has a lovely crunch and warm, nutty taste, which is balanced by the fresh flavours of the herbs and salad leaves.  Then there is the pleasant sourness and acidity from the olives, pomegranate seeds and salad dressing.

But perhaps the two things I like the best – firstly, it is ridiculously simple to make; and secondly it looks so very colourful from the multicoloured quinoa through to the greens of mint and parsley and the rich reds of the pomegranate seeds.

Then apparently it is very healthy – good for blood sugar levels and full of vitamins, especially vitamin B.

So taking the subtle hint, I made it again.

Quinoa Salad With Pomegranate Seeds and Halloumi Cheese

100g organic quinoa
2 tbsp black olives, pitted and chopped
3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
15 leaves fresh garden mint
10 – 15 salad leaves (ideally including some purples)
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 tbsp organic lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
Pinch organic cracked black pepper

Rinse the organic quinoa thoroughly (this removes the soapiness that can sometimes happen when making quinoa).  Add 200ml water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, drain and leave to cool.

Place the quinoa in a mixing bowl or salad bowl.  Add the chopped olives, pomegranate seeds, parsley, mint and salad leaves and mix together.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper to form an emulsion.  Pour over the quinoa salad and toss.

Grill the halloumi cheese slices until golden brown, tear in half and mix into the salad.

Yoghurt, Raspberries With Granola For Breakfast

Friday, August 28th, 2015
Yoghurt with Raspberries and Granola

Yoghurt with Raspberries and Granola

This summer I’ve been having Yoghurt, Raspberries and Granola for breakfast rather than smoothies.  This is what it says in the tin, i.e. fresh raspberries, yoghurt and then some home-made granola sprinkled over the top.  I guess I am trying to pretend it’s a real summertime despite the massive thunderstorm and the rain chucking it down outside.

This home-made oats-based granola is definitely not my idea – Poppy found it on Lily Pebbles blog, which in turn was based on the topping for Ella Woodward’s “Apple and Blackberry Crumble”.  We have made two versions – one using maple syrup, the other with coconut nectar as well as coconut oil, so the latter has a delicious coconuttiness to it.

You could use this granola on muesli or sprinkled through a fruit pudding or even a salad.

Both versions are quick and easy, tasting so much better than anything shop bought.  And there’s the added bonus that your house smells of lovely sweet cinnamon after the bake.

Two types of home-made granola  - coconut nectar (front) and maple syrup (kilner jar)

Two types of home-made granola – coconut nectar (front) and maple syrup (kilner jar)

Recipe for Homemade Granola per Lily Pebbles

150g or 1 cup organic ground almonds (or use whole, then grind to a coarse and crunchy grain)
180g or 1½ cups jumbo oats
3 tbsp organic maple syrup, or organic coconut nectar
1 tbsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon
2 tbsp organic coconut oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Combine the cinnamon powder, coconut oil and syrup in a small pan, then gently heat to melt and stir together.

3. Put the jumbo oats and ground almonds in a mixing bowl.  Pour over the flavoured coconut oil and thoroughly mix and coat the ingredients together.

4. Tip onto a baking tray and spread out.

5. Put into the oven and bake for around 20 minutes.  Start checking from about 16 minutes as it can catch and burn as I found out with the coconut nectar version the first time I made it.

6. Let your homemade almonds oat granola cool, then store in a jar.  You might need to break up the clumps, but we quite like them chunky.

Cinnamongate: is cinnamon safe to eat?

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

We regularly get asked questions about the safety of cinnamon, e.g. “is cinnamon safe to consume?” or “how much coumarin is there in Steenbergs cinnamon?”  There’s a lot of chatter about this issue in webworld and in blogs.

Cinnamon Quills_02

Cinnamon quills packed into boxes from Sri Lanka

Because of these queries, I thought it useful to investigate the situation and find out the levels of coumarin in some Steenbergs’ products.

In summary:

  • Cassia cinnamon and true cinnamon are very different spices but both are generally sold as “cinnamon”
  • Steenbergs labels and sells true cinnamon as “cinnamon” and cassia cinnamon as “cassia”
  • Cassia cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin, but true cinnamon almost no coumarin
  • Coumarin, so cassia cinnamon, should be ingested in limited amounts:

No more than 1 teaspoon of cassia cinnamon per day, based on EU recommendations for Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 0.1 mg of coumarin per kg bodyweight every day

  • Cinnamon (true cinnamon) is safe to eat in terms of coumarin and your health
  • Coumarin may cause liver damage in some susceptible people, but its effects usually appear to be  reversible and so overeating of cassia for short periods does not usually appear to be a problem

If you need further information, you should consult a doctor.  I have taken the data for this blog from official Government sources and current scientific papers, so it is up-to-date as of 19 July 2015.

MORE DETAIL

What is coumarin?
Coumarin is a naturally occurring volatile oil (benzo-α-pyrone), found in many plants, e.g. cassia, cinnamon, tonka beans, vanilla and woodruff.  It gives that pleasing and heady cinnamon aroma – a direct, sweet, fresh hay character.  It was first isolated in tonka beans in the 1820s and took its name from the old botanical name for tonka – Coumarouna which in turn came from the native French Guianan name for the tonka tree, kumarú.

Where is coumarin found?  As mentioned above, it is found in various spices.  However, the most important route of intake is via cassia or cassia cinnamon and this is the cinnamon that the various studies relate to.

This distinction is very important – true cinnamon (Cinnamon verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum) contains much reduced levels of coumarin.  At Steenbergs, we only sell true cinnamon as cinnamon.  Also, we only use cinnamon as cinnamon in our blends, and if we use cassia it is labelled as cassia not cinnamon.  We do, also, sell cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia, a.k.a. Cinnamomum aromaticus or Cinnamon burmanii), but always label this as cassia and never as cinnamon.

You can tell the difference quite quickly – true cinnamon is a light tan and has a subtle woody aroma like box or sandalwood, with hints of cinnamon and citrus, whereas cassia cinnamon is a darker tan and has a more direct, blunter petrochemical aroma that is strongly “cinnamony” and reminiscent of German Christmas biscuits (Spekulatius or Zimtsterne) and Danish pastries.  As an aside, we are sometimes told Steenbergs cinnamon does not taste like cinnamon, but then find there has been confusion between cassia and cinnamon, because this is the more readily-found form of the spice.

The confusion arises because cassia cinnamon is quite legitimately, also, sold as cinnamon and is the cinnamon used in baking – hence, it’s other name “baker’s cinnamon”.

From a chemical view, cassia and cinnamon are noticeably different.  True cinnamon contains eugenol and benzyl-benzoate and no (or trace) coumarin.  In contrast, cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of coumarin.  Both cassia and cinnamon contain cinnamaldehyde.

In terms of levels of coumarin in powder versus quills, cassia quills have coumarin levels 75% lower than the powder.  For true cinnamon, quills have higher coumarin levels than powder, but both are still low.

Why is coumarin a concern? In high doses, coumarin can cause liver damage in small group of sensitive individuals.  However, only some individuals are susceptible to liver issues from coumarin, and those individuals would need to exceed the TDI for more than two weeks before liver issues might arise, then if they do occur the toxicity is reversible.  Maximum daily limits of coumarin have been set in the EU.

This issue originally arose with a report on cassia cinnamon in 2006 by the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (“BfR”), the scientific agency charged with providing scientific evidence for consumer health protection in Germany.  This showed that consumption of foods containing cassia cinnamon can result in the TDI of coumarin being exceeded, because of the high levels of cassia cinnamon used in some recipes.  Consequently, there has been a knock-on impact for bakers of traditional European bakery goods, e.g. cinnamon rolls (Danish pastries/kanelsnegle) and cinnamon Christmas cookies (Zimtsterne) within Europe, and people who use cinnamon to reduce their sugar intake by sprinkling it onto their cereal.

EC Regulation 1334/2008 gives the following limits for coumarin, which specifically excludes spices and mixes of spices, herbs, teas and infusions:

Table 1: Limits for coumarin in particular food categories per EC Regulation 1334/2008


Compound food in which substance is restricted

Maximum level
mg/kg

Traditional and/or seasonal bakery ware containing a reference to cinnamon in the labelling

50

Breakfast cereals including muesli

20

Fine bakery ware, with the exception of traditional and seasonal bakery ware (above)

15

Desserts

5

The best technical information available is found at the BfR’s website.  There is an excellent FAQ that covers pretty much everything you need to know: http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/349/faq-on-coumarin-in-cinnamon-and-other-foods.pdf, and their latest opinion includes the following on consumption of spices (see http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/349/new-insights-into-coumarin-contained-in-cinnamon.pdf dated 2012)[1]:

“For cinnamon sticks and cinnamon powder as a spice for household use, no limit values have been defined, however.  If an average coumarin content in cassia cinnamon of 3000mg per kilogram of cinnamon is assumed, the TDI value can be exceeded by consumers who eat a great deal of cassia cinnamon.  For an adult with a body weight of 60kg, the TDI value is reached, if 2g of cassia cinnamon are consumed per day.  For an infant with a body weight of 15kg, this is the case if 0.5g of cassia cinnamon are consumed per day.  Overall exposure can be increased by other sources, for example coumarin-containing cosmetics.  Consumers who frequently and regularly eat cinnamon-containing foods should be aware of this.  The BfR still recommends that cassia cinnamon is consumed in moderation.  Consumers frequently using large quantities of cinnamon as a condiment should therefore opt for the low-coumarin Ceylon cinnamon.”

How much coumarin is there in Steenbergs spice products?  We have had some of our relevant spices tested for coumarin levels by Eurofins Analtytik GmbH, using high performance liquid chromatography.  The results are shown in the table below, together with results from peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Table 2: Coumarin content of cassia cinnamon, true cinnamon and spice blends


Name

Other names

Origin

Coumarin
mg kg-1

Coumarin
%

Cassia Baker’s cinnamon Vietnam

 2 900

0.3 

Cassia [2] Baker’s cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon, bastard cinnamon

4 167

0.4

Cassia [3] Indonesia, Vietnam

3 856

0.4

Cassia [4] Indonesia, Vietnam

2 239

0.2

Cassia [5] China, Indonesia, Vietnam

3 016

0.3

Cassia [6]

3 250

0.3

Cassia [7] Indonesia

4 020

0.4

Cinnamon True cinnamon Sri Lanka

 31

– 

Cinnamon [2] True cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon Sri Lanka

68

Cinnamon [3] Sri Lanka

nd

Cinnamon [4] Sri Lanka

25

Cinnamon [5] Sri Lanka

nd

Cinnamon [6]

44

Cinnamon [7] Sri Lanka

64

Mixed spice   UK

 670

 0.1

Fairtrade mixed spice   UK

 22

 –

Pumpkin pie   UK

 22

 –

Tonka beans   Brazil

 52 000

 5.2

In conclusion, cassia cinnamon has coumarin levels of 2239 – 4167 mg kg-1, almost 100 times greater than levels in true cinnamon with the range of 0 – 68 mg kg-1.  Steenbergs spice mixes have low coumarin levels at 22 – 670 mg kg-1.  where one of the blends included about one-quarter cassia cinnamon.  In contrast, tonka beans have very high levels of coumarin of 52000 mg kg-1.

What does this mean in relation to safety to eat?  The BfR has issued guidance on the TDI that a person can eat daily over a lifetime without appreciable health risk and this includes those sensitive to liver damage from coumarin[1].  The TDI is 0.1 mg of coumarin per kg bodyweight every day.  An adult of 60-70 kg (9½-11 stone) can, therefore, eat 6-7 mg of coumarin per day safely for the rest of their life.  Further, for a 20-30 kg (3-5 stone) child, the limit is 2-3 mg coumarin.  The European Food Safety Authority has calculated the same levels [8].  Even if this value is exceeded for a short while, this does not appear to pose any health risks per BfR and EFSA.

Translating this into teaspoons, an adult should not consume more than ½-1 teaspoon of cassia cinnamon a day and a child no more than ¼-½ teaspoon of cassia a day.

Another way of thinking about it is that an adult can eat 68-120g of cassia cinnamon biscuits a day (10-24 biscuits) and children 17-30g of cassia cinnamon biscuits a day (4-6 biscuits)[1][5].  For cinnamon Danishes or buns, this is roughly 4 for adults and 1 for children per day.

These levels are relevant through time, so a child who eats his/her coumarin limit twice in a week only reaches 29% of his/her TDI (assuming no other cassia cinnamon is ingested).

In contrast, an adult can consume 55-104 teaspoons of true cinnamon and children 24-45 teaspoons.  Therefore, the levels of consumption for true cinnamon are effectively unlimited in terms of coumarin.

What can bakers do about this?  Ideally, you should get your cassia’s coumarin content tested and determine the final coumarin content of your bakery products.  Also, whenever food authorities have tested for coumarin, quite a number of products seem to exceed the legal limits – probably because people are unaware of the regulations.

However, we have created a practical guide as below.  If we assume the safe limits for coumarin consumption are those listed in the EC Regulation EC 1334/2008, then maximum levels for use of cassia and true cinnamon can be calculated and practical limits determined for bakers and other manufacturers.

Table 3: Practical guide for maximum levels of cassia cinnamon or true cinnamon to meet EC regulations on coumarin for specific food categories


Food category

Max level of coumarin
mg/kg

Max level of cassia(i)
mg/kg

Approximate teaspoons of cassia per kg(ii)

Max level of true cinnamon(i)
mg/kg

Approximate tsp cinnamon per kg(ii)

Traditional and/or seasonal bakery

50

7.9

797.4

399

Breakfast cereals

20

3.2

1

319.0

159

Fine bakery ware

15

2.4

¾

239.2

120

Desserts

5

0.8

¼

79.7

40

Notes:
(i) Maximum levels have been determined as the average coumarin content plus 2.58 x standard deviation; this means maximum amounts will not exceed coumarin content in 99% of cases.
(ii) Based on level teaspoons for cassia of 2.8g and cinnamon 2.0g.

References

[1] BfR (2012), New insights into coumarin contained in cinnamon, BfR opinion No. 036/2012, 27 September 2012, Berlin, Germany (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[2] BfR (2006) Consumers, who eat a lot of cinnamon, currently have an overly high exposure to coumarin, BfR Health Assessment No. 043/2006, 16 June 2006, Berlin, Germany (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[3] Blahová, J., Svobodová, Z. (2012) Assessment of coumarin levels in ground cinnamon available in the Czech retail market, The Scientific World Journal, 2012: 2863851, 4 pp, Available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3385612/ (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[4] Lungarini, S., Aurelia, F., Coni , E. (2008) Coumarin and cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon marketed in Italy: A natural chemical hazard? Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, Volume 25, Issue 11, 31 October 2008, 1297-1305, Available online but not free (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[5] Sproll, C., Ruge, W., Andlauer, C., Godelmann, R., Lachenmeier, D. W. (2008) HPLC analysis and safety assessment of coumarin in foods, Food Chemistry 109, 462-469, 27 December 2007 (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[6] VKM (2010) Risk assessment of courmarin intake in the Norwegian population – opinion of the panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids, materials in contact with food and cosmetics of the Norwegian scientific committee for food safety (Rep. No. 09/405-2 final), Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, 12 October 2010, Oslo, Norway, Available online at http://www.vkm.no/dav/271c242c20.pdf (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[7] Woehrlin, F., Fry, H., Abraham, K., Preiss-Weigert, A. (2010) Quantification of flavoring constituents in cinnamon: high variation of coumarin in cassia cark from the German retail market and in authentic samples from Indonesia, Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 2010, 58 (19), pp 10568–10575, Available online (but not free) at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf102112p (Accessed 12/5/2015)
[8} efsa (2008) Coumarin in flavourings and other food ingredients with flavouring properties, Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC), The EFSA Journal (2008) 793, 1-15, 8 July 2008, Available online at http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/793.pdf (Accessed 12/5/2015)

Thinking about organic?

Friday, May 1st, 2009

At Steenbergs, we are passionate about the wonderful tastes, heady smells, glorious colours and the thrill and excitement of high quality pepper, spices and herbs.  We are, also, looking for products that can be traced back to the farmers and growers.

 

This provenance and level of food-quality only comes through organic products.  Organic food is about respect for the consumer and nature – “making” food the way consumers expect it to be made without harming, damaging or polluting our environment.  But what exactly is organic and what’s so bad with non-organic foods?

 

What it means to farmers?

 

To start with, they must “convert” their non-organic land – following organic practices for 3 years before they can sell their produce as organic.  This is a massive commitment in time and money.

 

Organic farming starts with the seeds, which must be “natural” and cannot be genetically engineered.  Next, there comes the soil – organic farming looks to build healthy, living soil that can produce great food.  Soil is nourished with manure and compost, rather than with synthetic fertilisers.

 

Pest and diseases are a major issue for farmers, reducing crop and meat yields.  An organic farmer cannot use artificial pesticides or routine antibiotics.  Organic farmers protect against disease through maintaining healthy soil, crop rotation, intercropping and using natural controls.

 

Are organic foods healthier?

 

With organic foods, you can be sure that artificial processing has been kept to a minimum.  Organic foods tend to have higher mineral and vitamin content.  No artificial chemicals are used in farming; no post-harvest chemicals are applied to plants and meat.  They contain no hydrogenated fats, artificial additives, flavourings or preservatives.

 

So while it may be impossible to prove whether organic is healthier than non-organic there is something suspect about tampering with our food.  Personally, I think that the problem is not actually whether organic is better than non-organic, but that no-one has devised an experiment or trial that could show this.  It’s all a problem of: the vested interests in the chemical and biotechnology industry; how much such an experiment would cost; how long the experiment would need to take (probably at least several generations of people); and actually whether anyone is really that bothered in the outcome.

 

What about the environment and the farmers?

 

Organic producers, also, consider the environmental impact of food production and the welfare of their workers.

 

Organic producers start with the idea that they are the guardians of the land, respecting the environment, looking to preserve plant and animal species, nurturing the soil and keeping the air and water clean.

 

At Steenbergs, a key factor in the way we work is respect for people.  We have a strict policy that guarantees producers a fair market value for the goods they produce.  We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that their workers are paid a fair wage, as well as given decent levels of sanitation, power and education.

 

Can I be sure that it really is organic?

 

“Organic” has a strict legal meaning – all food or drink sold as “organic” within Europe must be produced according to European laws on organic production.  This means that farmers, processors and importers need to be reviewed every year by a recognised agency and importers must obtain import licences for every non-European product.  We are registered with Organic Food Federation, UK Certification 4.

 

When we have visited and checked our suppliers, we move to getting import licences from defra (the UK food and farming department).  This means that our growers in India, Sri Lanka etc must also be checked every year and hold EU organic certificates.  Then when we order, each shipment must be checked by the exporter’s certification body, the UK Port Authorities and ourselves – we carry out laboratory analysis checking for pesticide residues (amongst others).

 

The impact of chemicals

 

25,000 tonnes of pesticides are applied to crops in the UK every year and pesticides are recommended for use in the production of pepper and spices by the local spice associations.  However, of the 75,000 synthetic chemicals on the market only 10% have been rigorously tested with 30% having never been checked.  But what is known isn’t great:

  1. Methyl bromide is used in many pesticides and as a fungicide for pepper.  Yet it is linked to the deaths of farm-workers in the developed and developing world, attacking the nervous system, as well as damaging lungs, kidneys and is linked to testicular cancer.  It, also, damages the ozone layer, so is being (supposedly) phased out by 2015.
  2.   Irradiation may be used to sterilise herbs and spices under UK legislation, although it is rarely used.  Where it is not used, ethylene oxide is often used.  Ethylene oxide is a known genotoxic carcinogen, which has been banned in Australia for use on herbs and spices.
  3.  In the USA, farmers apply over 14 million tonnes of man-made nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers to their fields, but only 20% is actually absorbed in plant tissue.  The rest runs off into our rivers and seas, where it can cause nitrate poisoning in humans, as well as algal blooms that can kill aquatic life and pollute drinking water supplies.

 

Too good to be true!

 

Natural food does not behave the way we are used to – colours tend to be more muted and variable, powders can cake up and the shelf life may be reduced:

  1. Organic curry powders are light brown and contain no artificial colourings.  Non-organic foods often contain permitted food colourings, such as tartrazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110) and Ponceau 4R (E124).  Tandoori mixes and sauces contain Ponceau 4R, and tartrazine to give it that “improved” look, but tartrazine is banned in Austria, Finland and Norway.
  2. The major supermarkets and independent retailers have had product recalls for cayenne pepper, chilli powder and curry mixes several times between 2003 and 2005.  It was found that non-organic chillis had been “improved” with Sudan I, a carcinogenic red dye that is banned in Europe for foods and is normally used to colour shoe and floor polish.
  3. Spice powders and salts tend to cake up with moisture.  That easy-flow consistency comes from anti-caking agents, such as aluminosilicate for your salt or silicon dioxide in your tandoori mix.  But when you start preserving, you must use clean kosher-style salts as the anti-caking additives cause cloudiness in your chutneys and terrines and cured hams, as well as adding a slightly metallic flavour.

And finally…

 

Conventional foods are not all bad – a balanced diet is the best thing for all of us.  Just choose the best quality food you can find, consider where it came from, then slow down a little, relax and enjoy it!