x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Organic labelling a healthy beginning

New regulations will make sure we know exactly what it is we are eating.

A popular adage claims that we are what we eat. But very often we don't exactly know what it is that we are eating. And that's why moves by the Ministry of Environment and Water towards regulating and certifying organic food are welcome.

As The National reported last week, the ministry has appointed an officer to draft the laws and regulations needed for the country to protect and trace its organic food. The president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, André Leu, revealed some details of the UAE initiative last week.

Mr Leu, whose organisation is active in 116 countries, said the proposed law would require all locally produced organic foods to be properly labelled. The move follows the approval last month of 18 organic farms and steps to set up a certification process.

This will bring the UAE in line with procedures in many other countries. For people who prefer organic products, it will offer the same certainty about local products already available as with imported products that carry organic seals of approval.

Although the jury is still out on whether organic food is actually better for you - research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in September suggests the nutritional values of organic and non-organic products are equal - organic farming methods are said to be kinder to the environment and human health because they exclude, or limit, the use of manufactured fertilisers and pesticides.

From a consumer-protection viewpoint, people who choose to buy organic foods are often required to pay a premium, and they deserve the security of knowing that they are getting the genuine article.

While the move towards certification of organic products is welcome, there is more work to be done in terms of food labelling. With allergies on the rise, and increasing awareness of the effects of certain ingredients and additives on human health, the next item on the official agenda should be requiring disclosure of the contents of all manufactured food and cosmetic products. Clear calorie counts and fat contents would be welcome as well. When it comes to what we put into or on our bodies, we can never be too careful or too well informed.