The certifications are supplied by a new certifying body named the International Center for Integrative Systems that is based in Cambridge, MA. The group’s board of advisers and its list of cooperating scientists is weighted heavily toward specialists in Ayurveda.
Umasudhan C P, CEO of Parry’s American subsidiary Valensa International, said the new certification on its organic spirulina ingredient has at its core a measurement of the values that are important to consumers in this realm. Organic is an important certification, he said, but it does not tell the whole story.
“We got the information about this certifier from one of our suppliers that was working with them. The certification is about being non-GMO, minimally processed, and low temperature. The idea is you are not using a harsh process that will kill the enzymes present in the food to preserve the bioavailability of the nutrients,” Umasudhan told NutraIngredients-USA.
Watered down organic certifications
Umasudhan said that he believes with the proliferation of organic certifications around the globe the standard itself has become watered down to some extent. An organic ingredient can comply with certain standards and still not be exactly what vegan consumers are looking for. When interviewed in 2016, Mintel food and drink analysts Julia Buech concurred, saying consumers are taking a deeper dive into the ingredient deck in raw food drink powders and other food and beverage products that appeal to this market.
"The process 'behind the finished product' is moving into focus and becoming a premium attribute not only for the health-obsessed, but increasingly also for consumers generally looking for higher quality," she said.
This could be seen as a natural transition from the clean label movement as consumers grow increasingly wary of additives, allergens and chemicals in food but also ken to preserve natural nutrients.
There are no regulations surrounding the actual definition of what constitutes raw processed food, meaning there is some variation in interpretations. According to Teresa Havrlandova, founder of raw food firm Lifefood, any food that is heated above 45°C does not qualify, while Polish company Papagrin sells“42° products made with 42° technology”, such as its bread flavored with onion, garlic flaxseeds and unhulled sesame seeds.
Temperature, bioavailability criteria
The new Certified R.A.W. standard lists 212°F (100°C) as its absolute cutoff, but recommends heating foods or ingredients to no more than 118°F (48°C) for any length of time. Other qualifications for the seals include organic certifications, non GMO status.
Of more import than those criteria is the bioavailability standard, Umasudhan said, because heat kills the enzymes that make raw food more bioactive than highly processed versions. Certifying an ingredient like the organic spirulina involves itemizing the top 3 constituents of by weight and then running those through the center’s proprietary enzymatic test called CytoSolve that gives the molecule an enzymatic activity score ranging between 0 and 20. So, Umasudhan said, the standard drives really at what consumers are concerned about: is the food ‘live’ and will it perform that way in the body?
“Raw hasn’t had a certification. I would say this would be the first. They really want to see how bioavailable the nutrients are in your product. We did this to support our vegan and raw food consumers,” Umasudhan said.