Did you know that not all organic products are created equal? Absolutely not, says Deborah Wray of Wray Organic, one of Australia’s favourite certified organic grocery stores that you can find dotting the east coast of Australia. With a focus on certified organic products, all free of nasty food additives you’ll find in common grocery items, Wray Organic aims to offer the healthiest food possible for happy, thriving families. But how can you be sure a product is truly organic? There’s so much confusion around organic products, so we asked Deborah to share her best advice for maintaining a diet full of mineral-rich, pure and local produce.
Where did your passion for organics start?
It goes right back to when my son was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. It was a struggle to get him to school because he was so sleepy, and this was a boy who loved school and wanted to do well. I was fortunate to find an amazing doctor in Brisbane. Through this experience, we learned what dietary allergens were making him sick, such as bread improver. At that point, I realised I needed to be armed with the knowledge to help my son get better.
COYO is proud to have a range of certified organic yoghurts available in supermarkets and health food stores. Can you tell our readers what the difference is between organic and certified organic?
If a food item is certified organic, it won’t have any numbers listed within the ingredients. These numbers indicate synthetic additives and preservatives. This applies particularly for dried fruits, grains and nuts, which most people believe are safe if they’re labeled insecticide free. But just because a food item is insecticide free, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Products such as nuts, fruits and grains have to be treated with Methyl Bromide, this is due to Australia’s quarantine laws. Our stores still check all products before we stock them.
How does a product get that special seal of approval?
If you’re a food producer, like a farmer or factory, you decide which of Australia’s six certifiers you want to become certified with, and then an independent auditor assesses your business. Then the farmer or manufacturer has to go through a formal certification process, where they have to meet the Australian organic certification standards. For example, chicken farmers must demonstrate a certain amount of roaming space, provide a dust bath area etc.
How do you know if a food item is certified organic?
Look for one of the 6 Australian Certified Organic logos. If it’s an international grocery product look for one of the 350 logos from around the world. If you’re at an organic café ask the staff if the food is certified organic. Sadly, I’d have to say 99% of cafes that say they’re ‘organic’, are actually not.
Is this what inspired Wray Organic Cafes?
We introduced our cafe so our customers could enjoy certified organic food. I personally don’t eat out at cafes a lot because I know how food is treated, and it’s the same for our customers. A cafe may appear organic and marketing itself as such, but the only organic thing might be the coffee! What gets me out of bed in the morning is the knowledge that we can provide food without serious synthetic pesticides, GMO’s and preservatives. Our customers know they can trust us.
Are there particular foods that might be more harmful than others?
Do not juice anything that’s raw if it’s not certified organic, like carrots. They soak up synthetic insecticides from the soil. There are also a number of serious pesticides that are used in Australia that have been banned in other countries.
What are the biggest nasties we can look out for on food labels?
If it’s got a number in the ingredients list, don’t buy it. Only certified organic products won’t have numbers, and will have been checked by an independent auditor.
What’s the number one health benefit of eating certified organic produce?
What I love about certified organic farming is that it’s all about prevention. Farmers look at the health of the plants and the health of the animals so that they can combat disease. You think about my son and the fact that his immunity was compromised, and it’s no wonder, because he was eating this cocktail of pesticides and additives that are in our everyday food. The key is to get the soil rich in minerals. A certified organic farmer will spend time ensuring their soil is rich with minerals, balancing out calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. If the plants we’re eating are grown in mineral-rich soil, we too will receive the benefits. Healthy soil = Healthy Plants = Healthy Animals = Healthy Us
How else can we make healthier choices, aside from buying organic groceries?
About four years ago, I noticed that some of our tinned products contained plastic lining. Plastic can contain BPA, which has been linked to serious health issues and has been banned in many countries. So we removed products that contained this, even if they were popular products.
You now have 10 certified organic stores. Have you seen any demand for other certain foods, aside from certified organic products?
Coconut products have a very big and wide market. Gluten-free is also very popular, but people who can’t digest gluten also need to avoid highly processed foods. A lot of gluten-free products are highly processed so make sure you read the back label for those numbers.
What role do you believe health food stores such as Wray organics play in the wider community?
When we have our events in store – like our fermentation workshop or a book launch – we might have 45 attendees who get to know each other. So it really does build community, and it also inspires other businesses to shift to organic products as well. It’s amazing how much change you can create through connection.
You’re excited to launch your new recipe book, and we’re excited to experiment in the kitchen! Why did you decide to create a cookbook?
It’s about explaining how to turn our products into delicious meals, and explaining how affordable it can be to make an organic, nutritious meal, because that's often a big block for people. My recipes contain fewer ingredients, because certified organic food has more flavour.
Want to find a bountiful selection of nutritious, certified organic products? You can visit Wray Organic at various NSW and QLD locations. Find your nearest store on their website at wrayorganic.com.au
'More Flavour, Less Ingredients' by Deborah Wray has over 100 recipes using certified organic ingredients and is available for purchase in all Wray Organic Stores. RRP. $39.95