Herbie’s Guarantee of Quality

July 28, 2015 posted in Behind the Scenes

Our Guarantee of Quality Explained

At Herbie’s Spices we are obsessive about quality. It is a subjective topic, and many spice sellers are guilty of hyperbole when it comes to describing their produce. Therefore we have attempted to explain our Guarantee of Quality, and then when you use our products, you can be the judge. Herbie’s products contain No Added artificial ingredients or fillers of any kind. What you see on the label is exactly what is in the pack. Herbie’s Spices is HACCP certified (an independently audited food safety system) and maintains strict food safety and allergen controls.

What is Quality?

The quality attributes of our spices are based on standards with respect to: aroma, flavour, texture, appearance, cleanliness and provenance. By maximizing these qualities our customers are assured of the best possible results.

Spices are agricultural commodities, and just like the fresh fruit and vegetables you buy, they are effected by the soil and climatic conditions where they grow. Their quality is also determined by harvesting practices, drying and post-harvest handling, cleaning, sorting and grading, packaging and shipping, grinding and blending, storage conditions and the packaging and distribution methods used to get the final product to you. Every link in this chain impacts on the quality of the final spice you buy.

Variations in Appearance

From time to time you may see variations in the appearance of some herbs and spices. These changes are generally caused by the criteria mentioned above, climatic conditions being a key factor. At Herbie’s Spices we put quality of flavour as a key determinant of overall quality, as you are primarily using a spice for the flavour it gives. While appearance is important, we do allow minor variations when it means only giving our customers spices that deliver the best results.

Some Spice Myths

We don’t use emotive terms on our packaging such as “Hand Picked” “Sun-Dried” “Homemade” and “Hand Ground”. In fact, most of the world’s spices are hand-picked, and the majority are sun-dried, as this is the world’s most cost-effective method of drying a spice, and it has been used for thousands of years. With a “Homemade” product, it is hard to be sure of proper hygiene and quality control standards that our food regulatory authorities expect. As for hand grinding, there are many industrial spice mills. An industrial stone mill or hammer mill grinds effectively, and retains the volatile oils just as well as hand-grinding.

Irradiation and Sterilisation, and Cleanliness

One should not be surprised to find that many spices once carried abnormally high levels of bacteria transmitted by soil, manure and human contact. Irradiation involves exposing the food to a low dose of ionising radiation that kills most bacteria and insect larvae. It is widely used to sterilise medical products and it is permitted for food sterilisation in many countries.

Consumers are generally not comfortable with the idea of consuming irradiated food, and no Herbie’s Spices are irradiated. A common method of reducing the bacteria in spices in Australia is by steam sterilisation, in which the whole spice is subjected to enough heat to kill most micro-organisms without damaging the flavour. The spice is then ground in a very clean environment.

The very best way to achieve cleanliness is naturally at farm level, and the spice industry is making significant advances in this area, as the result is a better product produced more efficiently without the need for chemical controls. All spices coming into Australia are inspected by Australian Quarantine (AQIS) and Tested. They are then further processed in Australia, cleaned to eliminate any extraneous plant material, treated with super-heated steam to ensure there are no pathogens, then ground or sold as whole.

Organic Spices

Organic spices and herbs are becoming more readily available, however they are only worth buying if the flavour quality is as good as, or better than, non-certified organic material. Being organic is no guarantee of flavour quality if post-harvest processes are not stringent. Although some Herbie’s Spices have been grown organically, we do not place organic statements on the label, as we chose not to pay the fees for organic certification. Spices are also consumed in relatively small amounts, 20g or less in a meal, making their organic status far less significant than when one consumes whole vegetables, a chicken or a steak.

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