Well, there isn’t such a thing - currently, Organic certification cannot apply to something that didn’t originate from agriculture. In fact, under current certification schemes salt can only be ‘Certified for Organic Input’, but what exactly does that certification mean?
In the context of non-agricultural products, Certified for Organic Input simply means that it is on the list of permitted non-Organic inputs and the packing and storage environment of the product meets specific standards. These are important considerations especially when you realise that a lot of salt is processed in the country of origin, where food safety standards are often not comparable to the UK, but, we think that the Organic certification of salt should go further.
Salt is the only mineral we routinely add to food certainly outside of the home kitchen other minerals are added as preservatives or flavour enhancers, monosodium-glutamate (MSG) is one. Still, salt is added to almost everything we eat, and that’s why we think that it shouldn’t contain toxic pollutants.
Organic Certification seeks to protect the environment and provide the consumer with an assurance of:
- Standards of animal husbandry
- Standards applying to use and protection of the land and impact on the environment
- Avoidance of chemical inputs whether acquired during growing, production/processing or packing
Salt production may not include animal husbandry, but the protection of the land and environment along with chemical contamination are very real considerations.
Salt is found underground in deposits of Halite (also called rock salt) or, is produced through the evaporation of seawater or brines and lastly, is manufactured through the extraction of sodium chloride from crude oil.
The extraction of mineral or rock salt is carried out in two ways, it’s either mined (tunnels, blasting, extraction using heavy machinery) or through brine extraction using a process of drilling down to the salt layer or dome, blasting water into the bore to dissolve the salt and then extracting the brine which is then heated to achieve evaporation. Both methods can and have resulted in land subsidence and both impact the environment in other ways.
Salt collected from naturally formed surface deposits such as ‘wild-gathered’ sea and lake salts is at the lowest level of environmental impact. Commercial sea salt production has a higher impact as it involves pumping or channelling seawater into vast evaporation ponds where the wind and sun complete the process.
Cargill Salt Manufacturing evaporation ponds
On the upper end of the energy use scale, pumped seawater or brine is heated to achieve evaporation and make table and flake salts.
Table salt can also be produced from crude oil, a by-product of the ‘de-salting’ process of mixing heated crude oil with washing water or reclaimed from crude oil flakes (leftovers of the refining process).
The avoidance of Chemical inputs
All salt is at risk of environmental, chemical and heavy metal pollutants, both from the environment in which it forms and during processing either through additives or contamination. We explore these issues in other blog posts so I won’t go into them in detail here, but suffice to say that any Organic Certification of salt should include product testing and consideration of the environmental impact of production.
Under current EU legislation, which is followed by the UK certifying bodies, salt cannot be certified Organic but can be ‘certified for Organic input’. The European Union Organic regulations, updated in 2018 originally included provisions under which salt could be certified as Organic. The committee removed these provisions following objections from producers and resolved to re-examine what requirements should be met so that salt can be certified Organic.
Lake Deborah Pure Lake Salt is wild-harvested with an extremely low environmental impact, and it’s also certified as an allowed input for Organic production by the NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia) a certification recognised by the EU. Because we think purity is so important we go further, our salt is regularly and independently tested as free of harmful chemicals, pollutants and microplastics.