Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stop the Adulteration of Organic Food

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Action Alert
Sneaking Synthetics into Organics
Close the Loophole – Submit a Comment
To the National Organic Standards Board

Comments due Tuesday, March 19, 2013 (11:59 pm EST)
Think you’re avoiding synthetic ingredients like sodium benzoate and polysorbate 80 by choosing organic? Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
The organic law clearly prohibits synthetic and non-organic ingredients in organic foods unless carefully reviewed and deemed safe for human health and the environment. But the United States Department of Agriculture and many organic certifiers have routinely ignored this important legal requirement.
They have allowed conventional agribusinesses, like Cargill, ADM and others, to include artificial preservatives, non-nutritive sweeteners, and other unapproved synthetics to the approved non-organic ingredients that may be used in organic processed foods.
Ingredients are often preserved with sodium benzoate, or treated with sulfuric acid, or extracted with the neurotoxic solvent hexane, and the list goes on…
Cornucopia’s dogged pursuit of this issue led the USDA to issue a memo to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), asking them to address this.
But rather than fix the problem and require that all ingredients and processing aids be certified organic or approved, certain members of the NOSB are now attempting to write an official policy that would continue the violations.
Their proposal is profoundly unacceptable, not to mention blatantly illegal, as it would institutionalize violations of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
Make your voice heard! Help end the illegal practice of giving agribusiness food suppliers carte blanche. Synthetic and non-organic ingredients that have not been reviewed and approved should not end up in organic foods.
Instructions for submitting public comment:
For the required field “Organization Name,” please enter “Citizen.”
The deadline for submitting comments is Tuesday, March 19.
Sample Letter
Dear National Organic Standards Board members,
The organic law is clear: every ingredient that ends up in an organic food or beverage must either be organically produced, or approved for use in organics. This applies to all ingredients—whether they are required to appear on the ingredients list or not, as is the case with most sub-ingredients (“other/auxiliary ingredients”) and processing aids.
Rather than correct the past mistakes that have led to the widespread illegal use of unapproved synthetics, the NOSB’s Handling Subcommittee has put forth a proposal for dealing with the “other/auxiliary ingredients” issue that would institutionalize these violations.
Under no circumstances should the Handling Subcommittee’s proposal be adopted. It would be a blow to organic integrity, not to mention that it would be blatantly illegal.
Public interest groups have proposed a policy that would conform with the organic law and regulations. It has been referred to as “Option D.” I support this option, and I urge the Board to adopt Option D.
Sincerely,
[Your Name]
More Information
Many of the non-organic ingredients that you often see in organic processed foods are in fact multi-component ingredients (processed organic food can contain up to 5% non-organic ingredients, by weight, if the ingredients are "essential" and organic options are unavailable).
For example, “algal oil,” which now appears in some certified organic infant formula, milk and baby foods (including Earth’s Best, Horizon and Happy Baby) as a source of DHA omega-3, is not simply algae fished out of the ocean and dried before being added to the organic product. Rather, it is fermented in a factory and heavily processed with solvents, deodorizers, bleaches and other processing aids.
The algal oil is then sweetened, stabilized and preserved with synthetic and non-organic ingredients before it is added to organic foods. Many other ingredients that appear on the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances also contain “other ingredients.”
FDA labeling laws do not require that these “other ingredients” be declared on the product’s label. This is where the organic law should act as protection from undeclared synthetics: it specifically requires that all processing aids and ingredients that end up in a certified organic product must either be organic or approved—regardless of whether they are required to be included in the ingredients list or not.
In the case of the nutraceutical algal oils, food processors added them to organic foods before they were legally approved, for marketing purposes (there is little scientific evidence that they are effective). When the NOSB voted on whether to allow these highly processed, multi-ingredient oils for use in organics, Cornucopia argued that the oils were not eligible for organics because they contained numerous synthetic preservatives and other ingredients that are not approved in organics.
We were shocked when corporate organic industry insiders, lobbyists at the Organic Trade Association, and many of the NOSB members brushed our concerns aside. Apparently, this was business as usual.
Cornucopia’s dogged pursuit of this issue led the USDA to issue a memo to the NOSB, in 2011, informing the board that “business as usual” wasn’t going to cut it anymore.
This is our chance to let the NOSB know that organic consumers expect all ingredients—whether they are major ingredients or minor ingredients, listed on the ingredients list or not—to be in compliance with the organic law.

The Cornucopia Institute P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, WI 54827 www.cornucopia.org

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