“Raw” sugar is produced by pressing the juice out of sugar cane or beets, then heating it to boiling point and adding chemicals to remove impurities.
Next, it is pumped into evaporation tanks to concentrate it into a thick syrup, which is further heated to remove more water until it crystallises.
And that, dear reader, is what the food industry calls “raw” sugar.
It’s crazy, of course – and so much so that you probably figured that the use of the word raw in this context was less than honest.
However, you might think it’s a different story for companies in the raw food arena, marketing their wares directly at raw fooders – especially those headed up by well-known raw food promoters.
You might still think that when a company like this puts raw on the label – and charges you anything from two to five times as much for the product because of it – you can 100% trust that means the food in question is raw.
I used to think this, too, but since starting to investigate it last year, I have been shocked over and over at what I’ve found out.
I am not talking about rumours here – I am talking about:
- the fact that at least one leading raw food company and one well-known raw food promoter have even admitted that for years they sold raw-labelled (and priced) cacao products that weren’t raw, yet this has somehow stayed under the radar
- frank conversations with industry insiders
- documentary evidence I have seen from a leading supplier to the raw chocolate market which clearly shows that its cacao powder and butter are, in fact, not raw.
I’ve been discussing this issue with all of the people I most respect in the raw food and holistic health world and it’s restored my faith in this community to discover they all agree that there is never any excuse for food labels to be less than honest. No ifs, no buts – it is that simple.
And I imagine you’re with us all on that, too.
If a food says raw on the label, it should not have been heated at any time and for any duration to any temperature higher than 48C – 49C max (118F-120F) – end of story.
Yet foods heated to 85C (185F) and more are being labelled raw by supposedly ethical companies who are operating right here in the raw food arena and marketing their wares directly at raw fooders.
These foods could ethically be called “low temperature processed” or “low temperature cooked” but they are not raw by any definition of the word – none, at least, that is accepted by those of us who recognise that foods are fundamentally and irreversibly different once heated above 49C (and some put the threshold even lower).
It is not entirely clear to us at this point which companies know about the deception, and which genuinely have no idea and are being duped just like the end consumer.
But what is clear is that we all have an absolute right to know what we are buying.
Many companies in the raw and alternative health market are 100% honest and would never dream of being anything other than that. In fact, despite all I’ve found out I would still like to think that most of them are.
But as one of my sources commented, “One person’s dishonesty can send a ripple through and affect people’s perception of a whole market. It could bring a lack of credibility to this whole lifestyle when it’s just starting to get its legs and attract a more mainstream audience.”
Shockingly, some companies are happy to assure you their products are raw, but ask them to tell you the maximum processing temperature used, let alone provide any evidence of same, and they are less than forthcoming.
The first person to alert me to this issue was Vanessa Johansson, CEO of Rainshadow Labs, and I greatly admire her courage and integrity.
When she discovered that a leading US promoter of raw chocolate had in fact been selling cooked chocolate for years, including to her, she did not stay silent; she stood up and spoke out.
“People just want to know,” she says. “They want to be able to make their own decisions. That’s at the core of why people choose this lifestyle. We’re fighting for our right to be sovereign entities – to live our own lives with as much information as possible. We each need to think for ourselves, but if you can’t trust leading authorities in this market it makes it so much harder.”