USDA List of Approved Nonorganic Items Stirs Controversy

Approved items could end up in organic foods, but opponents say there are alternatives.

Organic food enthusiasts are concerned about a new list of nonorganic items that USDA might approve for use this year. There are 38 nonorganic ingredients that the agency might add to the list of improved ingredients.

Under current rules, 95% of a product must be organic and the other 5% can be nonorganic if it comes from an approved list. To get on that list an organic alternative must not be commercially available.

Purists say this latest list of ingredients shows how big business is trying to "water down" organic standards. Organic proponents say that more than 90% of the food and agricultural items on the proposed materials list could be grown organically.

The list includes hops for beer, elderberry juice coloring for making foods bright red, or meat casings from non-organic animals.

The ingredients are already being used in organic products, but a federal court ruled that USDA has to approve each nonorganic ag product to be used in organic food. The court gave companies two years to find organic alternatives or petition USDA to include the ingredients on the approved list of nonorganic items.

According to a New York Times report, USDA's decision on the list is expected "within days."

Manufacturers claim that organic versions of the ingredients they need are not currently available.

Source: New York Times

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