Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Crazy Jack Organic isn't so crazy!

I wrote to Crazy Jack Organic yesterday to get information about their raisins. The reply came today and is full of good information, which I copy here in full (photos added by me). Raisins, and other dried fruits, are a great snack food, especially when the sweet tooth is acting up.  But they're also handy for cooking and salads.  I’m glad to have this source.  Thanks Crazy Jack Organic!

Dear Jennie,

Thanks for your e-mail. It is good to hear someone take such a close interest in our product.

To make raisins, the grapes are picked as bunches and laid on drying beds in the sun. They are not washed at this stage, we need the fruit dry to prevent moulds growing. The fruit dries quite quickly, depending on the level of sunshine, in around two weeks. It is a tense time for farmers as rain can ruin the crop. Once dried, the bunches are de-stemmed, collected in wooden crates and stacked together to ensure that there is a uniform level of moisture in the crop. This will take another week or two.

The dried grapes are then properly cleaned to remove caps, stems and any loose dust or grit, then washed in cold running water and blow dried! The fruit is also graded for size.

The raisins are then lightly oiled (or not) and packed in cartons for shipping to the UK , where we pack them in to smaller bags. This is the most efficient way of shipping the stock to minimize wastage in transport.

UK5 Certification – we are certified by the Soil Association, whose license reference is UK5.

The Soil Association has a set of criteria that we have to meet to ensure compliance to organic standards. Organic standards and compliance is a legal matter. To make the claim “Organic”, we have to comply with the criteria set by this licensing body and we and our suppliers and growers are submitted to a series of inspections to ensure we comply with the standards.

Every order we place for organic goods is accompanied by a certificate of conformance. This allows us to trace product in the system. In addition to this, every year, we are submitted to an inspection by the Soil Association to ensure the integrity of our product. To find out more about certification visit Soil Association Organic Certification.

We only deal with those suppliers approved by our technical department. This ensures the technical team is satisfied the supplier is genuine and capable of producing organic material.

We also have a program of supplier visits, inspections and audits to ensure that what we see on paper is happening in practice. We also run a program of external, third party tests for chemical residues (Pesticides and Herbicides) that allows us to identify if we have a problem despite all the audits and inspections. See Community Foods and you will see pictures of our buying team in the field.

Last, but not least, we have been engaged in the supply and production of organic goods since the early 1980’s. We were dealing in organic goods before the standards for organic goods became enshrined in law. We were one of the first to develop organic sultanas, apricots and figs and have been involved in other pioneering work for organic food.

In all of the above and in so many other ways I have not been able to explain here, we manage the integrity of our product which is very important to us. Crazy Jack is not simply a brand to us, but something that evolved out of the work we were doing on sourcing organic raw materials over 25 years ago.

Origin; Once upon a time, our fruit came from just one source – California . California produces great product – dark and tasty. But as the market has grown, we have had to buy raisins from different countries to meet demand and give us security. If the crop fails in one place, we need to ensure we have an alternative. The growth in organic has been really encouraging, more farmers growing more product under organic conditions but it does mean that in a single year we can’t rely just on Californian fruit. Other countries such as Chili and Turkey now produce raisins and we always buy to our specification to maintain quality.

Mixing – no, we don’t mix batches of fruit. We do this so we can ensure we can trace each pack back to its origin and is why we don’t blend fruit (Unless we are making a fruit blend – e.g. Raisins and Cashews)

The country of origin for each bag is printed with the best before date on the side of the pack.

Sunflower Oil – This is also certified organic and complies with UK5 certification. Every ingredient and the PROCESS have to comply with organic certification, which includes processing aids such as sunflower oil. In the early years, we had to insist on the packers buying organic certified oil from France , but organic sunflower oil is now more widely available and easier to source.

I hope this covers everything. If I haven’t cleared things up for you, please let me know.

Regards,

Paul Moore
Marketing Director