Archive for April, 2009

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My visit to the Natural & Organic Products Show 2009 (3)

12 April, 2009

Continuing the series on my visit to the Natural and Organic Products Show on 6 April 2009.

FOOD PRODUCTS

1.  Maharishi Honey.  It’s bizarre, but following last year’s show I wrote about this brand of honey and somehow I found myself at this stand again this year, after the exhibition had closed. 

Maharishi honey is organic and produced according to the ayurvedic principles of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  (Those who are Beatles fans will have had their bells rung as, for a short time, the Beatles embraced the philosophy of this yogic practitioner.)

I’m no stranger to biodynamic farming which encourages the use of biological sprays and planting according to planetary cycles to enhance crop vibrancy. 

However, Maharishi honey seems to go one step further in influencing the wellbeing and quality of honey produced by playing mantras to the bees as they forage and when the honey is harvested.  Furthermore, the Institute believe that honeys harvested at different times of the year have different tastes and a positive effect on different parts of the body.

It all seems very airy-fairy, but I picked up some leaflets from the stand which included scientific research into the efficacy of Maharishi honey. 

One study (conducted by the Food Research Laboratory in Japan) compared the antibacterial activity in Maharishi Honey with Manuka Honey (UMF 30). 

(Now, the little I know about Manuka Honey is that the higher the UMF rating, the stronger and more reliable the properties of the honey.  So UMF 30 is pretty high up the scale.  Because of its potency, Manuka Honey has been used in the treatment of digestive disorders and burns.) 

Interestingly, the test show that after one hour and even after three hours, Maharishi Honey showed considerably greater anti-bacterial than Manuka Honey.

I’d always meant to try the honey, and this year, after humming and haaing over which type to buy, the assistant on the stand took pity on me and quite out-of-the-blue, presented me with a small sample of their Madhu Taste 8 (enhances the sense of Taste and sense of Sight).  She told me that everyone they’d given samples to usually ended up purchasing more later on. 

Who knows?  Perhaps by writing it up in my post last year, I’d somehow attracted it into my life.

2.  Gaia’s Organic Kombucha.  I used to make Kombucha.  It’s a kind of fermented tea drink, which has health-benefits.  The fermentation is carried out by a special type of rubbery fungus called a scobie.  I stopped making Kombucha when the fungi multipled and threatened to take over the house, so I’m always on the lookout for commercially-produced Kombucha which would give me the convenience of a Kombucha drink without the hassle of having to make it. 

Most commercial Kombucha suffers from one problem:  pasteurisation.  This destroys most of the living enzymes, probiotics and amino acids in Kombucha.  Which means that most shop-bought Kombucha is essentially a dead substance and no better than a cordial.

Until today I thought the only brand of “live” unpasteurised Kombucha was made by Lewtress.  So it’s great that Gaia’s Organic Kombucha also offers live, unpasteurised Kombucha.  While Lewtress’ Kombucha are fermented with herbs, Gaia’s are infused with fruity flavours which may be a more gentle introduction for newcomers to Kombucha:  Original Green Tea, Green Tea and Peach and Green Tea and Blackcurrant.

The creator of Gaia’s Kombucha is Gary Leigh and he represented everything I enjoy about the Show – the passion to create a product that will help people, and the enthusiasm to share his knowledge and expertise about the product.  He showed me how fresh and “alive” his Kombucha was – in one of the bottles, a little Kombucha culture floated, with the potential to become a fully-functioning Kombucha fungus.  His Kombucha does not need to be refrigerated, although refrigeration will slow the fermentation process down.  He claimed that an unopened bottle would stay potent for up to 10 years.

I tasted some Gaia’s Kombucha – it had that Kombucha kick to it:  slightly fizzy, tart with a warming effect.  My favourite was the Original Green Tea flavour because I’m a purist when it comes to Kombucha tastes.  Definitely a must-try for Kombucha addicts.

3.  Argital green clay.  I’d come across bentonite clay during a detox – taken internally it is supposed to absorb toxins.  However, Argital green clay is extracted from a pit near the seas of Sicily.  It is suppsoed to be more potent than other types of clay because of its marine origin which is rich in mineral salts and other elements. 

I took a pinch of the clay between my fingers – it felt like talcum powder.  The person I talked to at the stand told me that he mixed a teaspoon of the powder in a glass of water every morning, let the clay settle and drank the remaining solution.  It was, he said, the secret to his good health because the liquid contained all the minerals that the body required. It was also supposed to be good for pets who would recognise that their water now contained all the right elements.   Needless to say, I had to have some, but unfortunately he only had a few packets available, so I had to make do with a few tablespoons in a plastic cup, sealed with a wodge of kitchen towel!

 4.  Devon Cottage Organic Fudge.  All I can say is, it’s delicious.  It is the only organic AND Fairtrade fudge available on the market.  Added to that, unlike many other fudges it is made with butter, not with the cheaper palm oil.  (I’m also a bit wary of palm oil which may be highly-processed).

I spoke with the owner, Richard Dennison who described how he still makes the fudge in small quantities, in a cottage-type enterprise.   The fudge is still hand-stirred by himself, so it truly deserves the label “home made”. 

He sources all his organic ingredients from the UK (which can only be good for our farmers).  The exception is the milk powder (which is used to produce condensed milk used in the fudge recipe) because apparently despite the plight of the British milk industry, there is no one in this country who has capitalised on excess milk stocks to manufacture an organic milk powder!

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My visit to the Natural & Organic Products Show 2009 (2)

6 April, 2009

Continuing the series on my visit to the Natural & Organic Products Show 2009.

PET-RELATED PRODUCTS – FLOWER ESSENCES

(As you may be aware, flower essences are remedies which act on the emotional state of a person or animal.  They are made by infusing the flower in water in the presence of sunlight to capture the vibrational quality of the flower.  The belief is that each unique flower vibration is capable of healing different negative emotional states.)

It’s not often I come across a range of flower essences specifically-created for pets.   Most holistic practitioners use traditional Bach flower remedies for pets.  I’ve used Australian Bush Flower Essences.  Bioforce have a small number of pet-specific remedies.  And in the US, Green Hope Farm have an Animal Wellness Collection.

At the show, I came across Tortue Rouge, a company specialising in organic essential oils, that has created a pet-specific range of flower essences (more to follow).

The company is based in the South of France,  in the beautiful Languedocienne mountains.  All their essential oils are grown by themselves in their grounds. 

What I found impressive was the four varieties of high-altitude lavender essential oil that they were able to offer me:  lavender grown at 800 metres, 1200 metres, 1600 metres and 1800 metres. 

(What’s the big deal about high-altitude lavender, I hear you ask.  Well, apparently, high-altitude lavender has a higher ester content – esters are the chemical components that give the oil its relaxing, calming effects as well as floral scent.  Therefore the higher the ester content, the finer the scent and more therapeutic the oil. )

I couldn’t smell the difference between the 1200m and the 1600m, but the difference between the 800m and the 1800m was discernible – the latter had a creamier, almost honeyed fragrance.

Anyway, I digress.  The founder of the company, Petre (pronounced “Peter”) Sefton has always loved animals and decided to create a range of flower essences for pets.  She and I had a very interesting discussion about whether or not the intent and “purity” of the person making the flower remedy had any influence on the efficacy of the remedy, and whether commercial methods of production eroded quality.

I spoke with Tracy Savage, one of the assistants at the stand and she gave a glowing testimonial on their effectiveness.  She is normally a sceptic about flower essences, however, she gave some to  a friend who had a rescue cat who, four years after the rescue, was timid and nervy.  Apparently, three days after the remedy, the cat became more confident and sociable. 

I realise that what I’ve just narrated is anecdotal, so I’m looking forward to trying these essences and reporting on the results.  However, it is worth noting that a number of holistic vets including Richard Allport are using these remedies.

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My visit to the Natural & Organic Products Show 2009 (1)

6 April, 2009

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Natural & Organic Products Show 2009 today.  (You can read last year’s visit in the post here).

It’s a trade-only show, which means that its a showcase for what’s new and cutting-edge in the health and food industry. 

I find it very useful because it’s a one-stop shop to chat to the market-leaders and experts in their fields.  Yes, ultimately it’s a commercial show, but I’ve always met a lot of people who are passionate about making a difference in providing healthier alternatives to the way we eat and live.  And the exhibitors are generous in sharing their knowledge and samples which means I can write based on personal experience!

In most years, a three-hour visit has been plenty.  This year I found myself running out of time and frantically running round even after the show had been declared over, because there was so many new products to investigate.

I’ll cover my findings in the following categories as separate posts:  pet foods, pet-related products, (human) food products and personal care products.

PET FOODS

1.  My find this year was Lily’s Kitchen Proper Pet Food.   Henrietta, the founder, named the company after her Border Terrier, Lily.  She wanted to give Lily a diet that wouldn’t contain any of the preservatives and chemicals that commercial pet food contains.  

Every ingredient in the range is human-grade and organic.  Just as importantly, there is no soya or grains, artificial colourings, preservatives or flavourings or animal derivatives (e.g. cow hooves).  Even the chicken used is NOT chicken meal (i.e. powdered chicken) but from whole chicken.

It’s the only pet food in the UK to be certified both Holistic and Organic.  Lily’s Kitchen was awarded “UK’s Best Pet Food Company 2008-2009”.  And apparently holistic vets like Richard Allport are recommending the food in their practice.

The cat food range has a higher meat content of 60%.  It’s still not as high as I’d like it to be, but for people who can’t feed raw, or are transitioning to raw, this is definitely a big step in the right direction.  The US has traditionally always led where holistic pet food is concerned, but it’s been impossible for US companies to import wet pet food into the UK because of EU regulations.  So it’s exciting that finally, such choice is available to pet lovers in this country.

Lily’s Kitchen for cats is available in Organic Dinner with Chicken and Organic Dinner with Lamb.

2.  Another pet food company new to the exhibition was Forza10.  I couldn’t work out why the name was so familiar, until I remembered seeing it on the zooplus web-site.

The company is Italian, and what is of note is that the President of the company, Dr. Sergio Canello is a Homeopath and Vet.  Again, the impetus for the company was to create pet foods that would not result in food intolerances or cause allergies in pets. 

The ingredients are apparently the result of years of clinical and scientifc research (see website) and are unique to Forza10.  They claim to be effective in helping to resolve food-related allergies such as dry and dull coat, fur loss, paw licking, dermatitis, localised itching, eczema, pyoderma, vomiting and diarrhoea.

There are two Forza10 ranges – Forza10 and Forza10 Bio.  The latter is based on organic-certified meat and fish for cats and dogs.  Furthermore, no meat comes from intensely-farmed animals.

Looking at the list of ingredients for Forza10 Bio wet food (which is available in rich in Beef or rich in Chicken variants), the meat content is an impressive 97.4%, but this is made up of both the meat (min 30-40%) and meat by-products.

(At the risk of sounding facetious, the term “meat by-products” always reminds me of that menu in Terry Pratchet’s Mort, where Mort is faced with a choice of a “curry with named meat” and a “curry with an unnamed meat”!)

Again, it’s nice to know that there is a better choice out there for our pets.  Anything that moves away from pet food that contains artificial preservatives, flavourings, colours and poor-quality meats is a good one.

3.  Rattle and Reward cat treats.  Yes, this is kibble.  But the ingredients are natural (meat and fish), hypoallergenic with no carbs, and rich in salmon.  No artificial preservatives are used.  They come in a little embossed tin, and it’s amazing just how quickly cats will work out what that rattling sound means!  The cat treats are appropriately-named “Cat Cravings”.

Thank you to Lily’s Kitchen, Forza 10 and Rattle and Reward who kindly gave me samples of cat food to try.

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10 April 2009 – Additional findings

I opened the Lily’s Kitchen.  It is a pate-type cat food, set in jelly.  It is not as pureered as most pate-type foods (e.g. Friskies Gourmet Gold), there are small bits of meat and veg in it, but it’s not as evident as say, in a product like Almo Nature where the meat is instantly recognisable.

The Rattle and Reward has been a resounding success.  Ananda, who is usually the gentle soul, actually cries out for it when she hears the rattle of the tin.