Organic watchdog Cornucopia praised the move

Organic watchdog Cornucopia praised the move

The US is to review the use of two synthetic additives in organic baby food and infant formula after a fresh look at the nutrients allowed in organic processed food.

The National Organic Program, which oversees the marketing and labelling of organic food in the US, said new information had brought to light that it had erred in 2006 when it had allowed the use of ARA and DHA in infant formula.

After talks with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Organic Program said it had been "determined" that there had been "an incorrect interpretation" of regulations covering the use of "accessory nutrients" like ARA and DHA.

“Consumers have the right to the best information about what is included in products carrying USDA’s Organic seal, and producers need clearly defined standards and processes in order to ensure that they can meet regulatory requirements and satisfy market demand for organic food,” said Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program. “Today’s (27 April) announcement will strengthen the National Organic Program by providing greater confidence for consumers and better information and procedures for producers.”

The National Organic Program plans to publish draft guidance later this year that will align with the FDA's interpretation of the nutritional guidelines. The draft guidance will provide a transition time for businesses to reformulate products to comply with the regulations.

Cornucopia, an organic industry watchdog, praised the announcement but said it took a change in administration in Washington to make it happen.

Cornucopia said it had first investigated the use of the "novel" nutritional oils ARA and DHA, derived from soil fungus and algae, in infant formula, because they are "extracted using a neurotoxic chemical, hexane, which is explicitly banned in organic production". 

Charlotte Vallaeys, lead author of a Cornucopia report on infant formula, said that through a request to the FDA, the watchdog had learned that there was an apparent correlation between the use of the oils and severe gastrointestinal problems.

"Organics should be the last bastion of pure, natural and unadulterated food for consumers," said Vallaeys.

"Based on FDA adverse reaction reports, we discovered that many parents, physicians and healthcare practitioners found that chronic problems with infants, often resulting in ‘failure to thrive’, acute dehydration (caused by dangerous diarrhea/vomiting) and severe emotional stress on the babies and their families, were often immediately resolved when switching to formula without DHA/ARA supplementation,” Vallaeys said.