US: USDA mulls extension to organic ingredients list

By | 11 June 2007

A raft of non-organic ingredients could be added to the list of approved items that can be used in the production of organic foods in the US.

The US Department of Agriculture has received a recommendation from its organic advisory board that, if accepted, would see an extra 38 non-organic ingredients that could be used in the production of organic-certified foods.

"For a food to be certified as organic, it must contain 95% organic ingredients," a USDA spokesperson told just-food. "Five per cent of the ingredients used can be conventionally produced. We allow this low-level use of conventional ingredients only when an organic alternative is not commercially available."

For a food manufacturer to use a conventional ingredient in the production of a USDA-certified organic product, it must be included in the USDA's list of approved ingredients. Only when an organically produced ingredient is not commercially available will the USDA add the conventional item to the list.  

However, the move to expand the approved list is not without its opponents, who have suggested that it would undermine the integrity of the USDA's organic label.

"This proposal is blatant catering to powerful industry players who want the benefits of labelling their products 'USDA organic' without doing the work to source organic materials," said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association.

The USDA declined to comment on the controversy surrounding the proposed extension of its approved list.

"The USDA organic certificate is a trusted and rigorous national standard," the spokesperson said.

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