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Watch before you dig into that bread sandwich! It could be cancerous!

Whilst the hot discussion topic around healthy eating has been on brown bread vs. the white bread, the astounding new finding reported recently reveals startlingly disturbing news. A study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) claims that as much as a whopping 84% of breads tested by them were found to contain potential carcinogens! This includes white breads and brown breads by popular bakeries, pre-packaged products from branded companies and even reputed food chain restaurants.


Chemicals like potassium bromate and potassium iodate are often used to help the bread dough rise and achieve a uniform finish. These chemicals were declared potential in causing cancer and many countries have banned their use. However the FSSAI permits the use of these ‘under permissible limits’ in India! The CSE study reveals blatant misuse and liberal use of these dangerous chemicals!


Whilst the news grabs headlines, it may be a good idea to educate oneself of the obvious harmful effects, once again proving how our precious health is at risk at the mercy of unscrupulous financial gains of food business. Does that mean one should give up eating bread completely?


No, not at all! Being aware means being smart, not hit the panic button! With the bad, there always exists the good! The idea is to find the right people who believe that health is not to be compromised at any cost for profit.


Switching to whole wheat bread, one that is made with love and care, free of quick short-cut processes is what is the key to enjoying the pleasures of eating right.  It is just a matter of finding the right place that takes pains to bring the purest and best breads for joyful consumption!

Download the CSE Policy Brief (POTASSIUM BROMATE/IODATE IN BREAD AND BAKERY PRODUCTS) and CSE Lab Report (Potassium Bromate or Potassium Iodate in Bread). View the CSE presentation here.

Also the ZEE News coverage of the incident here.


Myths busted about natural/healthy labels

We all are tempted to roll down the aisle in the grocery store to buy the premium priced ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ labeled food, aren’t we?

After all health of your family comes first!

But should you believe the label that proclaims ‘healthy or ‘natural’? No!!

Here are a few misleading labels that you should be aware.

1. Whole grain

2. Multi grain

3. Sugar Free

4. Zero Trans fat

5. Fat Free

6. Made with ‘real’ fruits or ‘vegetables’

7. Cholesterol Free

8. Gluten free

9. Light

10. Natural

Packaged foods are after all processed. A 100% natural claim may apply to one or two ingredients, but others may be synthetic or hidden under the natural label. There are a number of loopholes in the definition of these terms, which are often loosely coined. The FSSAI has no strict norms for certifying these claims. Marketers of these brands often exploit these and add the misleading terms to attract customers.

Don’t fall into the trap! Not only read the list of ingredients on the box carefully but also research and do your homework before selecting a particular brand or product for its ‘natural’ benefits!

Or better still - rely on our expertise at Organic Express. We have made it our aim to get you the health benefits of eating organic! From grocery to ready-to- bite into food – all delivered with a passion to be pure and true to our promise!

We will unravel how each of these labels is fooling you in more posts that follow. Stay tuned!


The Mango love - Artificial Ripening (Why how Ill-effects?) & how to spot artifically ripened mangoes

We all love Mangoes don’t we? It is this love for mangoes which is partially responsible for majority of the industry artificially ripening mangoes. Every year in the mango season, it is common to see a debate on chemical ripening, calcium carbide, FDA raids, and some traders saying it is not possible to ripen mangoes otherwise.


Why the race?


The issue of artificial ripening happens because of the way market is structured. Mango that comes into the market first gets sold at higher price. It’s the race to get the mangoes to the market early that is making people involved in the mango trade to not only use pesticides in production but artificially ripen the mango and get to the market before the natural actual season begins. It’s a pure demand supply thing and corrupt business practices with the motive of making extra buck. In the beginning of the mango season people have been waiting for mangoes for long. The actual season begins in April end. But to meet this demand of people who had been waiting for more than 6-8 months get the fruit to the market 1-2 months in advance i.e. Feb end itself. They are able to willfully charge customers. This happens across various mango varieties as well throughout the mango season. Artificial ripening is also done to achieve faster and more uniform ripening characteristics.


What is ripening?


Ripening in general is a physiological process which makes the fruit edible, palatable and nutritious. In nature fruits ripen after attainment of proper maturity by a sequence of physiological and biochemical events and the process is irreversible. Whether fruits ripen on the plant or after harvest, the general changes associated with ripening process is softening of fruit, change in color and development of characteristic aroma and flavor. There is also reduction in sourness and increase in sweetness of fruit. Usually fruits produce ethylene gas, a plant hormone naturally that ripens the fruits.


What is artificial ripening and how it is done?


With the development of fruit trade the fruits are sent to distant places, requiring several days in ordinary or refrigerated transportation and only firm and mature fruits are least damaged during marketing. The fruits are ripened at the destination markets before retailing and hence harvesting of fruits before they are fully ripe has become essential.


Unsaturated hydrocarbons such as acetylene, ethylene etc. can promote ripening and induce color changes effectively. The most commonly used chemical for artificial ripening is Calcium Carbide CaC2 and is popularly known as masala. It is a point to note that calcium carbide does not ‘ripen’ mangoes. It is important for customers to understand that ripening is a biochemical reaction. When the fruit reaches maturity, it starts producing ethylene gas, along with slowly breaking down acids in the fruit, and converting starch into sugar. It is not humanly possible to accelerate this natural biochemical reaction in the fruit.


What calcium carbide does for mangoes is that it produces acetylene gas when it comes in contact with water, which creates heat. Acetylene’s main application is in welding and as a fuel. When generated from calcium carbide, acetylene contains toxic impurities that affect the neurological system. When acetylene fills up the box of mangoes, it heats the fruit from outside. Mangoes start losing their green colour and turn yellow from outside.


Mangoes turn yellow, but do not ripen internally. Some starch near the skin of mangoes is broken into sugar and then mangoes take a uniform yellow colour. For the customer, the mango looks yellow, he/she thinks it is ripe and buys it at whatever cost. However, the taste is not what the customer expecting for the price she paid. Such mangoes taste pathetic.


Ill Effects?


Calcium Carbide is a dangerous and corrosive chemical. Carbide ripened fruits on consumption cause several harmful effects to human health. As discussed earlier, it has cancer causing properties and contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous hydride. The early symptoms of arsenic or phosphorous poisoning include vomiting diarrhea with or without blood, burning sensation of chest and abdomen, thirst, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, irritation or burning in the eyes and skin, permanent eye damage ulcers on the skin sore throat cough and shortness of breath. High exposure may cause a buildup of fluids in the lungs.  It may cause stomach upset because the alkaline substance is an irritant that erodes the mucosal tissues in the stomach and disrupts intestinal functions. As calcium carbide imitates acetylene gas it may affect the neurological system by including prolonged hypoxia. Free radicals from carbide play a major role in the ageing process as well as in the onset of cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and perhaps allergies. If pregnant women consume these artificially ripened fruits, it can cause miscarriages and developmental abnormalities if the child is born.


What should you do?


We recommend waiting for the peak mango season to buy the summer fruit.  Mangoes enter the market in the end of March, but at this time most are usually artificially ripened.  The consumers should wait till the end of April to get the naturally ripened ones. Also one should know and understand what varieties are available during which month and follow the above advice throughout the season.  OR just go for the Organic naturally ripened mangoes sourced from trusted farmers and suppliers.


How to spot artificially ripened mangoes?


Artificially ripened mangoes unlike naturally ripened ones will not have a good aroma, mangoes will have yellow outer skin but the tissue inside will not be ripe, the fruit sugars remain immature, it does not taste sweet. They will be dry and less juicy as compared to naturally ripened ones, which would have sucked enough water from the tree. Fruits that have a uniform color are more likely to have been artificially ripened.


Parameters

Artificially Ripened with Calcium Carbide

Naturally Ripened Fruit

Weight per fruit

Fair

Mostly Good unless the variety si such

Aroma

Mildly Good

Good

Firmness

Fair

Fair

Texture

Not very attractive but uniformly colored

Attractive but not uniformly colored

Shelf Life

Shorter, black blotches appear on the skin of the fruit in 2-3 days

Longer

Taste

In-core sour, mildly pleasant

Sweet, pleasant


Where to get Organic naturally ripened mangoes?


There are many trusted sources. We at Organic Express of course can supply to you. You may contact us here with your requirement.


The McDonalds (read most Food chains) French Fries Story

I am sure you would have read stories of the McDonalds burger not rotting for a period of 3-4 years. One post even claimed 10 years. All stories of the western world. Back home, although we all know McDonalds in bad for health, food is junk, recipes are unhealthy, makes one obese, yes there are bound to be preservatives and artificial flavoring but  to what extent.? We all have been skeptical about the extreme stories on either side including me – till this happened.


I must confess kids do get tempted to eat McDonalds – once they are near one McDonalds and there are quite a few everywhere. It’s difficult to convince them to not buy French Fries or the happy meal (the toy makes it worse). On one of these days I too was unwillingly coaxed into buying a happy meal for my son. Even while my son was playing with the toy and binging on the French Fries I was constantly trying various tricks to take the fries off his mind, so that he doesn’t consume them. And that moment did come. I slipped the fries into my wife’s bag at an appropriate moment and Eureka. I was happy. We all forgot about it till the below happened.


Almost a month after I was out again with my wife and suddenly she finds and brings out some McDonalds fries from her bag. Starts wondering when why how they landed up in her bag. Till we both remembered the above day. Why my wife didn’t find those for a month? Well women do have multiple bags and my wife does really have a lot of them :). This one was used after a month :). Anyways I opened the fries and to my surprise they looked and smelled exactly the same what they do 15-20 minutes post buying them (i.e. as soon as they get to room temperature). They had not decomposed. There was no funny smell on them. Thank God for that though otherwise I would have got a beating from wifey. Shocked I even dared to taste/eat them. Yes you guessed it right, they even tasted the same!!!


Do I need to write more?? Our food at Organic Express doesn’t survive a day or some even not more than a few hours and here we had something which smelled looked and tasted the same after a month that too in non-controlled temperature and environment. Was it even food? Imagine the kind of chemical additives taste enhancers and preservatives that would have been added. Scary? For sure.


Know what you are eating. Make smart choices. Go Organic.



More About Organic Express Menu - How we keep our food Healthy, Wholesome and Fresh while dealing with the operational challenges in the Organic World

We will start by explaining the operational side of things at a typical restaurant or a fast food eatery. Although running a food business operation is never easy we will only be highlighting the facts which we at Organic Express do differently.

 

Procurement:                                                

Typical Restaurant – Procures everything conventional (non organic) through a distributor or a bulk supplier at the best rates. Also most of the raw material purchased is GRADE B or GRADE C which cannot be sold in retail market. Every thing is easily available – seasonality doesn’t matter, indigenous doesn’t matter, packaged frozen stuff too easily available, pricing doesn’t change often. Just call the established supply chain distributors and it’s all done.

 

Organic Express – Procures everything Organic. There are no distributors, no established supply chain. The team is constantly working with hundreds of farmers across India and a few established brands (mostly selling non perishable produce), understanding seasonality, checking on the genuineness  of the Organic produce, through certifications, soil testing, random produce testing (more on that in a separate post) and transporting stuff constantly across the missing supply chain. We some times even transport one kind of item from a particular farmer of a group e.g cheese from Auroville or Himachal, various vegetables from nearby Organic farms – distance of around 500 Km, milk from an organic dairy in Rewari, Papayas from Andhra, Avocados from Himachal, Kiwis from Arunachal, Pineapple from Nagaland, Mangoes from Maharashtra and across – various varieties, Kinnows from Abohar, Oranges from Nagpur, Onions from Rajasthan etc. etc. Most of the times the produce has to be picked up from bus stands, railway stations or private courier company offices. Imagine the kind uncertainties and the effort.

 

Preparation and Recipes:

Typical Restaurant – Since a lot of ingredients are available to them (chemical and preservative laden though) through out the year, the team and the chef has its/his task easier to implement. They also use a lot of pre-prepared packaged ingredients in their recipes – ready made Mayo, Salad Sauces, Tahini, Ragu, Thai curry powder , syrups to make beverages etc. etc. The team even outsources bakery like breads, burger buns etc. and the desserts as well to third parties. Also they use a lot of artificial flavoring and coloring to prepare their dishes including taste enhancers like MSG aka Ajinomoto etc.

 

Organic Express – We at Organic Express don’t do any of that. Since we do organic  (hardly any players in the market doing organic ready to eat) and don’t use any artificial coloring or preservatives, we prepare everything from scratch with organic and natural ingredients. Breads are baked in house, all dips sauces are made in house, beverages from real fruits and vegetables etc. Imagine a world where all dishes are prepared from the basic non processed ingredients. We make and serve food like the way it is meant to be.

 

Freshness and related Wastages:

Apart from healthy preparations and the uniqueness of Organic Express menu (whole foods and millets based dishes – we will write a separate post on that) our food has no artificial chemicals or preservatives added to increase the shelf life of the food. This ensures that everything is fresh. Yes we do deal with a lot of wastages (again will write a separate post on that) when ever we have a bad day at office.

 

On the other hand a typical restaurant would add a lot of chemical preservatives to increase the shelf life to reduce wastages.

 

Manpower and Training:

Most of the manpower available in the market including high end chefs etc. are trained to function in a way described above. So switch from one to another is easy and staff adjusts easily. At Organic Express we always have to make the people we hire unlearn the above bad habits (as we call it) before they become productive. And let us assure you its anything but easy. Making people unlearn what they have been doing for years and what they think is normal is super difficult.


Do you realize what you are being fed?

So our team met with the owner of a super successful eatery in Gurgaon at Organic Express.

So he tries our juice without sugar and a whole wheat club sandwich.

Feedback - juice blend is fantastic but it needs sugar. We say you asked for it without sugar. Reply - daal diya karoo even when customer asks without sugar. Usko kya pata chalega and the customer would love it.

Feedback - Sandwich. The bread is a bit different than what whole wheat bread you get in the market. This is coarse. We tell him that it actually does contain 80%whole wheat flour as compared to 20%or even less for the breads commercially available.


Reply - daal do na maida, color, ho Jayegi soft. Customer ko soft whole wheat bread chaiye bol do whole wheat Hai kya farak padta Hai. Usko kaise pata.

Wow - being super successful at what he does, he we are sure really does know what the customer wants or perceives what he/she is getting.

But makes us think......


Why Do YOU Eat Organic?

We asked YOU yes YOU our customers “Why have you gone Organic?” Below is what YOU said:


  1. Illness and even Cancer in the family – Better late then never. We have understood how chemical laced food has impacted us albeit too late in some cases. But better late than never. We want safe food for ourselves and our family members including kids. Many pesticides used in non-organic farming are known carcinogens, which mean that they are known to cause cancer.
  2. Organic Food Tastes Better – We have tasted Organic Food and are able to make out the difference between conventional and organically grown produce. In fact it takes us back 20-30 years to our childhood when most food was organic. Food that’s grown in nutritious organic soil without chemicals has a fuller, more flavorful taste. Also artificially ripened conventional foods are tasteless and taste more like a cardboard.
  3. No artificial Ripening of Produce and no harmful injections/coloring/sweetening substances added to the produce – Harmful gases like calcium carbide are used to accelerate the ripening of fruit and have harmful effects on humans due in part to trace amount of arsenic and phosphorus. We have all heard stories of artificial ripening of mangoes, injections given to gourds, colors and sweeteners injections given to watermelon, waxing of apples. Urea in milk. The list is endless.
  4. No GMO Produce – Organic produce is grown with non-GMO seeds.
  5. No Hormones – Non organic livestock are often pumped with growth hormones that humans end up consuming. These hormones have negative effects on our health.
  6. No Chemical Pesticides and insecticides – Chemical pesticides that are used in non-organic farming contain pesticides that are known to be harmful to human health. Especially in India where there is no control over the pesticide usage. Farmers invariably end up using a lot of chemical pesticides which remain in food even after washing. Also a lot of pesticides which are banned in other countries are still being used in India. Certain insecticides used in food production referred to as “neonicotinoids” have potentially neurotoxic effects on the human nervous system.
  7. No Antibiotics – We are consuming more harmful antibiotics than ever before as they are being widely used in conventional farming.
  8. Healthier for Children – The developing bodies or children are much more susceptible to the toxic effects of pesticides and chemicals.
  9. You Are What You Eat – Our cells are literally made from the food we eat. Make sure your body is chemical free.
  10. More Nutritious – Food grown in healthy soil is healthier. Also since we can eat the wholesome fruit/vegetable./staples without having the need to process or remove the skin we get more nutrition than the non organic produce.
  11. Health & Wellbeing of Farmers – Farmers are negatively affected by the chemicals used in pesticides. Also we have all heard incidents of farmer suicides due to debt piled upon mostly attributed to non organic inputs and practices.
  12. Helps Keep Drinking Water Pesticide Free – Pesticides from food production inevitably ends up in our drinking water.
  13. Supports Sustainable Farming – Organic farmers use techniques that support environmental health, profitability, and social equity.
  14. Knowing Where Your Food Comes From (Traceability)  – Organic foods are generally grown closer to home, and you have the peace of mind knowing that your food adheres to strict organic standards. Know your food know your farmer.
  15. Support Small Farmers and farmer markets – While non-organic farming is being taken over by factory farms, organic farms are typically smaller, independently owned operations that support farmer livelihoods. We love meeting our farmers and understanding our food from them, makes us feel connected to them. In this fast changing machine world where emotions take a backseat we love being part of this socially responsible community.
  16. More Ethical for Farm Animals – Organic farmers provide farm animals with natural living conditions, allowing them to graze, nest and have fuller lives. Organic farming prohibit feeding livestock animal by-products, which is one of the ways that Mad Cow Disease is spread which by the way can also be easily transmitted to humans who consume them.
  17. Biodiversity – Organic farms have greater biodiversity due to practices like manure fertilization, crop rotation, and multi-cultural crops. We want to preserve this biodiversity for ourselves and our future generations.
  18. Prevents Soil Erosion – Organic farmers work on building healthy soil. Healthy soil is good for ecological balances and produces healthy more nutritious food.
  19. No Unnatural Additives in Animal Feed – Non-organic livestock are typically fed with GMO cord and Soybean meal, but are also fed with manure, non food additives like sawdust, and animal by-products.
  20. No Sewage Sludge – Sewage sludge is human waste and other waste matter that is used to fertilize crops. The dangers from contamination of sewage sludge arises from prescription medications like mood altering drugs, chemicals and other pathogens whose effects and dangers aren’t fully understood.
  21. No Irradiation – Irradiation is the process of applying radiation to various crops to kill bacteria or reduce the likelihood of insect contamination. Irradiation damages the quality of food and science has not proved that a long-term diet of irradiated foods is safe for human health. 

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