Don’t Panic, it’s Organic

Nourish Magazine Chocolate Photo

A bowl of Organic Times Milk Chocolate Hazelnuts

This Article appears courtesy of Nourish Magazine

There’s a plethora of options when it comes to curbing your chocolate cravings – especially around Easter time. and although choosing organic might not be the first thing on your mind in the confectionery aisle, there are a number of reasons why organic chocolate is simply better.

It’s easy to be bamboozled by swanky packaging and #drool-worthy flavour combinations when you’re selecting a block of chocolate. You want something delicious, rich and melt-in-your-mouth creamy, and – if you’re anything like me when you’re in the mood for chocolate – you want it now. Standing in front of the veritable wall of choccie products in the supermarket, the same resolve you had just minutes ago while selecting the fresh, locally grown produce has (momentarily) dissolved, and those blocks of Lindt Salted Caramel on special for $2.99 are looking pretty good.
But there is just one problem with tossing any old block of choc into your trolley, and that is that the chocolate industry is fraught with ethical shortcomings.
Although Lindt and Sprungli, as well as Cadbury, Nestle and the rest, have their initiatives towards sustainability – be it alignment with fair trade associations, sustainable farming projects, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions – they shouldn’t be on the top of your list when it comes to ethical choccie consumption. In fact, many have been given a big fat ‘F’ by the Ethical Consumer Group guide (guide.ethical.org.au), which translates to ‘criticisms’ based on company records. According to the guide, the chocolate industry is or has been guilty of using child labour and unsustainable palm oil pesticides that are banned in the US, EU and in Australia. The simple solution to the latter, at least, they say is choosing organic chocolate.

 

The organic difference
Recent research by Australian Certified Organic found that the decision to buy organic products often comes from a desire to eat healthier, avoid any unnecessary chemicals and additives and have a reduced impact on the environment. While all this may seem a lot more tangible when you think of your lettuce leaves being sprayed with pesticide or your carrots growing in artificially fertilised soil than when you’re noshing on Dairy Milk in front of the telly, choosing organic chocolate is just as important. “The main difference is that organic chocolate is made using the most natural ingredients and without the use of artificial additives, pesticides and chemicals,” says Deb Singleton of Organic Times (organictimes.com.au), an Australian-owned company that sells organic chocolates, cookies and baking products. “You may notice that organic chocolate usually lists a smaller amount of ingredients.” Their organic, fair-trade 55 per cent dark chocolate contains only five ingredients: cocoa mass, rapadura sugar, cristallino cane sugar, cocoa butter and soya lecithin – all of which are certified organic.

 

Strictly certified
“In order for our products to bear the NASAA certified mark, all the ingredients used in the production of our organic chocolate are organically grown and certified,” Singleton says. “Only packaging is not required to be certified organic; however, as we have a strong belief in sustainability, we ensure our packaging is made using recycled board in Australia.”
NASAA is an Australian and international organic certifier that ensures that certified companies such as Organic Times comply with strict organic standards across the board (harvesting, storage, handling, processing and marketing according to their 2012 fact sheet).
“Basically, NASAA has a set of rules and regulations, which is called Organic Standards. This is a handbook for operating under certification, including labelling requirements, list of prohibited products, and so on,” says Singleton.
“We are required to complete an operational handling plan annually, which outlines our processes and activities, ensuring we adhere to the NASAA Organic Standards – this also includes a physical inspection of the operations and products and an audit on ongoing records on inputs versus outputs of all certified ingredients.”
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Certified organic companies also have to keep ongoing record of compliance data to provide throughout the year, pay our subscription fee based on turnover, AND any new ingredients introduced must be pre-approved by NASAA. Phew! But what all that fuss means is you are guaranteed to get a natural, delicious and ethical product, straight off the supermarket shelf.

 

Sustainably sweet
Choosing organic chocolate isn’t just a more natural option; it’s also more sustainable. Organic usually equates to sustainable farming practices,” says Singleton. “Organic products are grown using sustainable procedures to ensure that nutrients in farmlands are maintained, as well as not using artificial pesticides and chemicals that are harmful.” Cacao trees, in particular, can be susceptible to pests and disease and so are known to be one of the most highly sprayed crops, but not organic cacao trees. “Organic cacao trees are grown using no chemicals and within their natural ecosystem,” says Singleton. “Organic farming begins with the nourishing of the soil, which then leads to the nourishment of the plant and ultimately the flavour and goodness of the food, and these natural growing conditions promotes biodiversity and decreases the incidence of disease.”
Eating sustainably is also about the choices you make as a consumer, which is why you should put that block of Lindt Salted Caramel right back on the shelf. “Simply put,” Singleton says, “any products that are made without the use of artificial additives, pesticides and chemicals must be better for us and more sustainable for the environment- and we can all do our bit by making better choices not only for our health but also for our planet.” Recent Roy Morgan research showed that the vast majority (76 per cent) of chocolate-buying Australians get their fix at the local supermarket, with only one per cent going to department or discount stores,. You might have to walk a little further to score these fabulous boutique blocks of organic choc, but- for the sake of your health and the health of our planet- it’s worth it.