History is an eternal restart. In Guérande (Loire-Atlantique), salt producers are used to fighting to defend their know-how. After thwarting a ring road project in the early 1970s that threatened a good number of salt marshes, more than 200 salt workers came together in 1988 to form a cooperative to raise Guérande salt to the top rank of salts. originally from France. The “organic” recognition of Atlantic sea salt (Guérande peninsula, Noirmoutier and Ré islands) is in sight. But the competition is fierce on a European scale, and the lobbying that is exercised, intense.

As proof, the organic salt certification project, currently discussed in Brussels, opens the way to a wide range of industrial production techniques. A good point: unlike the initial version, the text bans the addition of chemical inputs, such as anti-caking agents or anti-caking treatments, used to “skip” large packets of salt extracted mechanically. The ban on the use of all types of explosives to clear a mine salt deposit has also been validated.

bad points

“We’ve come a long way. Considering using explosives for an organic label is really not a dream, ”underlines Christophe Annaheim. Based in Guérande, the salt worker, who chairs the French Association of Atlantic Sea Salt Producers (nearly 600 professionals), awaits the final version of the text, by the end of 2022, with a heavy heart: “We must remain vigilant because each state will want to amend the text before the European Parliament votes. »

Sad points remain in the eyes of Mr. Annaheim: “As it stands, the extraction of mining salt with machines using the nibbling technique remains authorized”, states the professional. Just like the possibility of washing the salt in order to make it whiter to seduce the consumer. Such an operation, note the producers attached to manual harvesting, modifies the chemical composition of the salt, eliminating secondary salts such as potassium and magnesium. The technique is therefore not biocompatible, slices Christophe Annaheim, who is choking: “The principle of organic is not to distort the product. »

Still, the market whets the appetites of powerful groups, in the south of France as well as in Eastern Europe. “Everyone wants to be organic to green their image,” says Mr. Annaheim. But for that, it is necessary to submit to precise specifications, otherwise the label is distorted. “The showdown promises to be difficult. “If everyone gets the organic label, independent producers no longer exist, economically speaking,” he says. We cannot be competitive in terms of price. »

Several parliamentarians from the Atlantic seaboard have called on the government to defend “the strong requirements attached to the European certification of organic salt and its production methods”. Contacted by Le Monde, the Ministry of Agriculture promises “to bring to the European Commission a position allowing the production of organic salt according to demanding criteria and faithful to the main principles of organic farming”. It is, we recognize, “image and credibility” of the label.