What is Organic salt?

Well, there isn’t such a thing... let us explain why.

What does organic [ôrˈɡanik] mean:
1. relating to or derived from living matter, such as "organic soils"
2. (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or other artificial agents, such as "organic farming" or "organic meat"

Salt is a mineral, and so by definition is not living matter, is not farmed, grown nor produced. Therefore, Organic certification guidelines state that salt cannot be labelled as Organic. Under current certification schemes salt can only be ‘Certified for Organic Input’, but what exactly does that certification mean?

In the context salt, 'Certified for Organic Input' simply means that it is on the list of permitted non-Organic inputs (such as water) and the packing and storage environment of the product meets specific standards.  In theory, any salt can be 'Certified for Organic Input' but does that mean it aligns with the principles of being Organic, namely free from toxic pollutants and sustainably produced with consideration for the environment. Sadly, no... most salt contains significant levels of toxic pollutants, as the accreditation does not require any testing for purity of the salt nor assessment of where it is from.  These are important considerations, especially when you realise that a lot of salt originates from polluted seawater or contains heavy metals from deep underground.  That is why we think that the Organic certification of salt should go further than what is currently done and provide assurance on the purity of your salt and sustainability of its production.

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. 

Environmental Impact

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 industrial processing of brine extracted from underground. This uses 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 vacuum heated to achieve evaporation.  Both methods result in appreciable impact to the environment.

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).  Although, that doesn't sounds very appealing  

Commercial sea salt production also has an impact to coastal areas as it involves pumping or channelling seawater into vast man-made evaporation ponds where the wind and sun complete the process. 

Commercial salt ponds

Cargill Salt Manufacturing evaporation ponds

Lastly, salt collected from naturally formed surface deposits such as ‘wild-gathered’ sea and lake salts is at the lowest level of environmental impact.  Salt that is wild harvested from Lake Deborah is done so in a sustainable way, and in 2012 in recognition of this remarkable natural lake the Western Australian Government designated it as a Salt Harvest Sanctuary for future protection.

The avoidance of Chemical inputs

All salt is at risk of environmentalchemical and heavy metal pollutants, both from the environment in which it forms and during processing either through additives or contamination (such as plastics and heavy metals). 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 certified for Organic input to production by the NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia), a certification recognised in the UK and EU.  Because we believe in the ethos of Organic we have also adopted the principles, despite no requirement to do so. Therefore, our salt is regularly and independently tested as free of harmful chemicals, pollutants and microplastics. Our salt is wild harvested from a salt sanctuary where sustainability and extremely low environmental impact are essential. 

Try our pure wild-harvested salt

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