News and opinion on all aspects of vegetarian wholefoods cuisine.
For updates of the guide "Healthy Highways" see HealthyHighwaysMeetup.blogger.com
For politcs see Politicsisthewayyouliveyourlife.blogger.com.
For environmental issues (particulary reuse) see ChoosetoReuse@blogger.com
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.
required field “Organization Name,” please enter “Citizen.”
for submitting comments is Tuesday, March 19.
Dear National Organic Standards
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.