July 9, 2009
Organic purists say they arent strict enough, while companies looking to expand the market claim they are too restrictive. Thats what a recent article in The Washington Post contends.
Case in point: hexane-extracted omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Post, although several years ago USDA said synthetic additives should be banned from products with a federal organic label, 90% of organic baby formula contains these ingredients after a USDA program manager, reportedly lobbied by the formula makers, overruled the decision.
This easing of federal standards, plus heightened consumer demand, have led a $23 billion-a-year organic food business, increasingly populated by large players such as Kraft Foods (Boca Foods), Kellogg (Morningstar Farms) and Coca-Cola (Honest Tea). An influx of organic processed foods that may require ingredients, additives or processing agents that do not come in organic forms present supply problems for larger manufacturers.
USDA created the National Organic Program (NOP) in 2002 to develop, implement and administer national production, handling and labeling standards for organic agricultural products, as well as to accredit the certifying agents. The program has established a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that identifies synthetic substances that may be used in organic foods and nonsynthetic substances banned from organic production and handling operations.
The organic food fight has extended to Congress. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and sponsor of the federal organics legislation says: It will unravel everything we've done if the standards can no longer be trusted. If we don't protect the brand, the organic label, the program is finished. It could disappear overnight.
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