HOW CAN CONSUMERS KNOW THAT YOUR PRODUCTS ARE TRULY ORGANIC?
Our brand authenticity is underpinned by our organic certification through BIOGRO, a full member of IFOAM and New Zealand’s leading organic certification body. On every Ceres Organics, Zito and Ruby Grove product, you will see the BioGro logo with our certification number (#4310), usually prominently displayed on the front of the pack.
Currently there is no regulation of the word ‘organic’ in New Zealand and Australia (whereas 88 other countries do), which means that many products can use the word ‘organic’ and do not have to validate it.
We believe organics should not be diluted, and go to great lengths to guarantee and protect the best authentic organic ingredients. Our comprehensive network traces the certified products from the farm to the store or warehouse to maintain the utmost consumer confidence in integrity to organic, social and environmental principles.
Find out more about how organic certification works here.
ARE YOU FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED?
Fair Trade is inherent in organic trade. We are ECO SOCIAL certified, which is a fair trade and environmental certification formed specifically for the organic industry. We were the first company in Australasia to become Eco-Social certified. Eco-Social has a commitment to transparency and non hierarchical decisions taken at the level of the farmer community.
WHY DO YOU USE PLASTIC PACKAGING?
Packaging has been a major focus for us and an area which we want to continuously improve on.
Our main objective is to deliver products of the highest quality, in prime condition, until it gets to the consumers to ensure that all the resources and energy going into producing each authentically grown ingredient do not go to waste.
For many of our manufactured foods our first choice is glass. However for many of our ingredients, as they are not treated in any way or do not contain additives to prolong shelf-life, a plastic bag currently offers the protection we need against insects (always in search of a good meal!), moisture and oxygen, as well as handling most efficiently without damages throughout our supply chain.
In theory these plastic bags are recyclable but actually there is not always a recycling plant able to reprocess these bags. We choose to work closely with a NZ company to locally manufacture re-sealable pouches for us. They are washable and robust which offers consumer reuse opportunities and we encourage this.
We are currently working on trials for a compostable pouch made out of renewable resources which we are very hopeful will supersede our plastic pouches.
It is part of our ethics as a company to act to reduce waste where possible. As our company has grown and our product reach expands, we are also conscious our packaging needs to minimise extra space so that we are not unnecessarily freighting around “air”.
We recognise this need to reduce waste and therefore have made many of our products available to be purchased in bulk, which is not only good for the environment but is more economical too. Bulk product is supplied to health food stores and available from our store, Ceres Wholefoods, in Ellerslie, Auckland.
WHAT CANNED PRODUCTS ARE BPA FREE?
Most of our range is in BPA free cans, and we are actively pursuing canning solutions that will enable us to offer BPA free cans across our entire product range.
We are working with several canning facilities and suppliers and some lines have been more challenging to find suitable solutions for, especially in the tomato range which are very acidic in nature.
Currently, the following canned products have BPA free linings:
10849 Coconut Cream
10976 Coconut Milk
11694 Pear Slices
11695 Peach Slices
10850 Pineapple Pieces
10851 Fruit Salad
11803 Oqua Coconut Water
11686 Baked beans (Low Sodium)
12279 Cherry Tomatoes
11689 Chopped Tomatoes with Basil
Our range of Italian Beans:
11693 Red Kidney Beans
11691 Brown Lentils
11690 Mixed Beans
11687 Black Beans
11545 Cannellini Beans
11544 Butter Beans
11543 Borlotti Beans
11542 Adzuki Beans
12338 Black Chilli Beans
12334 Black Beluga Lentils
12340 Black Eyed Beans
11655 Tuscan Bean Soup
11656 Mediterranean Soup
11654 Tomato Basil Soup
12304 Quinoa Vegetable Soup
12303 3 Bean Masala Meal
Currently only the following tomatoes are in BPA free lining cans:
12279 Cherry Tomatoes
11689 Chopped Tomatoes with Basil
12335 Chopped Tomatoes with Garlic and Oregano
All of these products have the BPA free icon on the front of the label.
Where we can we are also offering can-free alternatives, such as: Ceres Organics Passata Tomato Puree(11903) Ceres Organics Passata with Basil (11696) and a range of Zito tomato products.
Our original chopped tomatoes 10535 and whole tomatoes 10534 we have not yet been able to make this claim as they are from another supplier. On lines that we cannot claim as BPA free yet, the canneries we work with have certificates as a result of tests that demonstrate there is no leaching of BPA into the food contents of the can. We hope to be able to make the BPA free claim across all our can labels as soon as we can get the necessary assurance from our suppliers.
WHY DO YOU SOURCE INGREDIENTS FROM CHINA?
We pride ourselves on offering full transparency of countries of origin and we stand by our Chinese suppliers with whom we have worked for a very long time. We have been buying some of their products, such as our peanuts, in excess of 20 years.
Our purchasing team visit and have close relationships with these reputable suppliers who are IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture movement) member certification companies. Chinese organic farmers are one of the most knowledgeable agriculturalists in the world and have earned a lot of respect in the industry.
Some products are only available from China at the quantities we require, for example, sunflower seeds.
Food quality and integrity are of the utmost importance to us, and we have strict sourcing policies to ensure first and foremost the quality of our ingredients and the ethics of the producer, and these supersede the preference for which country we source from.
WHY IS THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF INGREDIENTS NOT ALWAYS GIVEN?
We have to source internationally as we have an extensive range of products, some of which are only available from specific countries and regions. Often you will find multiple location origins on a product as a result of scarcity and supply shifts which dictate our sourcing locations. As our labels are ordered in bulk, we list all locations of which products are sourced but if you wish to know the exact origin of the product, you can contact us with the batch number and we will be able to confirm the country of origin.
For products with a large number of ingredients, it may become impractical and confusing to the consumer to list all possible countries of origin or we may be restricted in space by the label. Only then do we list as “Made from imported ingredients”.
ARE YOUR PRODUCTS VEGAN?
All Ceres Organics products labeled vegan are free from animal products, are not tested on animals, and are manufactured to the highest standards with approved management systems to ensure no cross contamination occurs during the production process with non-vegan ingredients.
WHERE THE VEGAN LABEL DOES NOT APPEAR
We don’t label products which are obviously vegan or vegetarian, where our customers have indicated that labelling is unnecessary. These include ingredients such as our large range of whole food grains, nuts, seeds, fruit and flours and products which are not made with ingredients of animal origin. Some of our snack foods may contain products of animal origin, always check the ingredients list.
DO THE FARMS THAT SUPPLY YOUR COCONUTS USE MONKEY LABOUR?
Ethical and fair trading is inherent to many organic practices. We aim to work only with suppliers that are ethical and fair, who support the well being and fair treatment of workers and animals on the land, ensuring rural communities have been united and empowered along the way.
We believe organics shouldn’t be diluted, and go to great lengths to guarantee and protect the best authentic organic ingredients. Our comprehensive network traces the certified products from the farm to the store or warehouse to maintain the utmost consumer confidence in integrity to organic social and environmental principles.
Find out more about how organic certification works. (http://www.ceres.co.nz/our-organic-certification/)
Specifically, we do not use or support the use of monkeys or human children to harvest coconuts.
WHY DO SOME PRODUCTS HAVE SHORT BEST BEFORE DATES COMPARED TO THAT OF OTHER BRANDS?
We take our product quality very seriously and stand by the best before dates printed on our product packs. We recognise that these dates may appear short in comparison to conventional processed food products; however, this is due to the nature of organics whereby our whole food products do not contain additives or preservatives. Our products undergo extensive shelf life testing to determine the maximum best before date, while always focusing on upholding our high food quality standards.
IS IT OKAY TO CONSUME THE PRODUCT IF IT IS PAST THE BEST BEFORE DATE?
Dates on food products provide a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat. The two types of date marking used on food products are ‘use by’ dates and ‘best before’ dates.
Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for health or safety reasons are marked with a use by date. Most foods have best before dates and these food products can still be consumed for a period of time after the given date, as they should be safe to consume. However foods consumed beyond their best before dates may have lost some quality.
DO YOUR PRODUCTS CONTAIN PALM OIL?
Currently, none of our range of Ceres Organics products contains palm oil. We do wholesale palm oil as a food ingredient which is rain forest certified by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil.
ARE THERE HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ABSORPTION SACHETS FOUND IN SOME OF THE PRODUCTS?
We add a non-toxic oxygen absorbing sachet to some of our delicate products to help keep them fresh because we do not use any kind of preservatives or additives. The product label should always mention the inclusion of this.
Oxygen absorbers are one of the cleanest and safest methods of helping to prevent spoilage in foods due to oxidation and any bacteria present in air. It also helps to protect the quality of nutrients in the food.
The sachet contents are made up of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Active Carbon Powder, Salt, Calcium Carbonate (Limestone) and Water.
These ingredients are not dangerous and are contained within a packet which is compliant to have direct contact with food. However, if accidentally consumed, it is recommended to drink large quantities of water and seek medical aid.
The outside of oxygen absorber packets explicitly say that they should not be eaten. Manufacturers add these markings to indicate that the packet is not meant to be eaten as there have been reports of people opening the packet and sprinkling it on their food because they think it is a seasoning packet.
WOULD PRODUCTS SOURCED FROM JAPAN BE AT RISK OF CONTAMINATION?
Ceres imports a range of food products from Japan, mostly those associated with a macrobiotic diet from Mitoku. We have been very concerned about the radiation effects from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident and whether any food we source from Japan contains radioactive elements. Health authorities in New Zealand were, of course, also concerned and we worked with them immediately following the accident to identify the risks and apply the appropriate testing for radioactive particles.
The Health Department required testing for strontium 90, caesium 134 & 137 on a number of specified products and random testing of all others. We liaised with Mitoku and the Health Department to make sure all our products were free of radiation as far as the tests could determine. All test results on the Mitoku products we imported came up clear – showing none of the nuclear elements that were tested for.
Our last update, as at January 2014, has the following statements:
“All our products are nuclide-free, but this claim must be taken in respect to the detection limit which depends on various factors including sample size, time period of analysis and cost.
We test to the European Union standards which are the same as the Japanese standards. The regulations state that products must be below 50 Bq/kg. We have never detected anything remotely close in our products and we set our standards and tests to that of our German importer which is 1 Bq/kg. The analysis certificates, however, are written to a standard which always represents the results as below 5Bq/kg.
Ceres Organics will continue to monitor the testing done by Mitoku and will discontinue any product that shows radioactive particles from Fukushima above the more stringent standards Mitoku is working to.
HOW DO YOU VALIDATE YOUR GLUTEN FREE PRODUCTS?
At Ceres Organics we have a large range of products that fall under a wider Gluten Free category. These products display the Crossed Grain Logo on its own or with the words “Gluten Free”.
The Crossed Grain logo is a symbol nationally and internationally recognised by those who need to follow a gluten free diet, and is administered in New Zealand by the Coeliac Society of New Zealand who approves the licensed use of this logo on products sold in New Zealand and Australia.
According to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, a foodstuff labeled as ‘gluten-free’ must not contain “detectable gluten” or “oats or their products”. Current detection technology can detect gluten in amounts as little as 3 ppm. This means that foodstuffs labeled ‘gluten-free’ in New Zealand and Australia are effectively required to contain no traces of gluten over 3 ppm.
Food products labelled as and claim Gluten Free are required under the Food Standards Code to include in the Nutritional Information Panel Gluten not detectable or nil or 0, this can be found directly under the values for Protein in the table.
Another standard used internationally is the Codex Standard a food code administered jointly by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation, responsible for determining food health standards that serve as a reference for the international trade in foodstuffs.
The Codex Standard for Foods for Special Dietary Use for Persons Intolerant to Gluten was adopted in July 2008. It was implemented by the European Union in 2009 and the United States in 2013. It establishes that a product is ‘gluten-free’ if it contains less than 20 ppm of gluten, and allows for the inclusion of wheat, rye, barley, oats and other varieties of grain that have been processed to remove gluten.
Compared internationally, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code takes a more strict approach to gluten-free labelling. Some of our products which contain ingredients from international suppliers whose gluten test capabilities are only to the Codex Standard of 20ppm mean we do not use the words “Gluten Free” on these products.
Gastroenterologists have confirmed that a foodstuff containing up to 19 ppm of gluten is considered safe for coeliacs, this figure is also confirmed by studies commissioned by Codex and has been supported by the Coeliac Society of New Zealand.
Ceres Organics products displaying words ‘Gluten Free’ (and usually the Crossed Grain Logo) are:
Tested to have ‘no detectable gluten’ (currently <3ppm) under the FSANZ standard, indicated on the products Nutritional Information Panel (NIP) as Gluten “Not Detected” and/or “0”, which can be found directly under the values for Protein.
Ceres Organics products displaying the Crossed Grain Logo only, are:
Tested to have gluten levels of less than 20 parts per million (<20ppm) as per the international Codex standard.
Subject to independent accredited laboratory testing at least every 12 months and random audit testing.
We go to considerable expense to ensure that all our gluten-free ingredients and finished food products are compliant with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. We work with our suppliers and manufacturers to ensure there is no cross contamination between gluten and non-gluten containing products on site or during transit.
We request Certificate of Analysis from our suppliers for the bulk ingredients used. Further processing and or packing of any of these items are undertaken in dedicated gluten free processing and packing environments, coupled with incorporating good manufacturing practices to minimise the risk of cross contamination of gluten into non-gluten products. For example, separation in storage (raw materials and packaging), separation during processing (scheduling), separation of specific equipment/machinery, cleaning of equipment/machinery and the processing environment, designated protective clothing, staff training and testing of finished products for Gluten.
WHAT IS YOUR STANCE ON HEAT TREATMENT OF SEEDS AND GRAINS?
As an island nation, New Zealand has stringent controls on the importation of seeds and grains. This is to protect our unique biodiversity from threats including pests, foreign weeds, viruses and fungi. If allowed into the country, there are rigorous controls to manage their importation and they can be subjected to treatments on arrival. As a certified organic food company sourcing globally, we sometimes experience challenges when importing certain ingredients we want to make available to New Zealanders.
We do not allow our ingredients to be irradiated, nor does our organic certification standard. We pride ourselves on sourcing the best quality organic ingredients. And we know our customers value our transparent supply chain, which preserves the integrity of ingredients from farm to plate. We work very closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to avoid any treatment of goods on arrival. All shipments are inspected and sampled by MPI and they’re only released to our warehouse if they meet all requirements.
Because of our respect for the integrity of the natural state of food we have historically chosen not to use heat treatment as an import solution. We also know many of our customers purchase our seeds for their raw status and sprouting. Millet is one ingredient that has been an on-going challenge for several years now. Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for our farmers and suppliers to fulfil all the technical requirements. Despite our best attempts to continue its supply, we have been out of stock of millet for the most part of the year, and we know this a great loss to many of our consumers.
We have been working with MPI to find a solution involving alternative heat treatment options, and have successfully trialed heating our millet at a lower temperature of 65°C in a humidity controlled environment. This passed both MPIs requirements and our own quality tests. We are very pleased with the result – it cooks, looks and tastes the same as our original untreated millet.
While it remains our preference not to subject ingredients to heat treatment, our experience and advancements means we now consider this on a case by case basis, for situations where there is no alternative. As millet is a cooking grain we believe this is a good outcome. It makes this popular ingredient available once again, and hopefully means no further supply issues. We are labelling this millet as being heat treated to inform our customers.