OTA petitions USDA with goal to reduce synthetics in organic food

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2014 - The Organic Trade Association (OTA) on Thursday filed two petitions with the National Organic Program to amend the National List of substances that can be used in organic production and processing - in one case strengthening the requirement for organic ingredients and in the other, removing a non-organic substance from the list.

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OTA is petitioning to revise the current rules that allow natural flavors in organic processed products to require organic flavors when commercially available. OTA is also petitioning to remove lignin sulfonate from the list as an allowed flotation agent in post-harvest handling of organic produce.

"OTA supports the rigorous process that has been established for adding or removing materials from the National List," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "The process encourages organic stakeholders to be innovative and tenacious to find organic inputs that are most compatible with organic principles.”

All of the substances on the National List are required to fulfill three criteria as specified by the Organic Foods Production Act: 1) They are not harmful to human health or the environment; 2) They are essential to and compatible with organic practices; 3) There are no commercially available organic or natural alternatives.

Currently, natural flavors are allowed in certified organic processed foods in the 5 percent non-organic portion, provided they are produced without synthetic solvents, synthetic carriers and artificial preservatives. They must also be made without the use of genetic engineering and irradiation.

However, the number of organic flavors in the marketplace has grown, so OTA is petitioning to revise the current listing of natural flavors to require the use of organic flavors when they are commercially available in the necessary quality, quantity or form.

In its second request regarding lignin sulfonate, OTA noted that it is a substance typically used as a floating agent in the handling of organic pears. Currently two substances on the National List that can be used to float organic pears: lignin sulfonate and sodium silicate. OTA said as the pear industry has modernized its equipment, the use of floating agents has declined.

OTA contacted certified organic pear packers and found that those still using a floating agent are using sodium silicate exclusively. Thus, lignin sulfonate fails to meet the criteria that it is essential for organic production, and OTA is petitioning that it be removed as an allowable post-harvest floating agent, the organization said.

NOSB held its fall public meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, Oct. 28-30 to review substances on the National List and to discuss organic research priorities and practice standards. USDA will now consider the NOSB recommendations for official approval and adoption.

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