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Organic Consumers Association

'Organic' Baby Food May Soon Contain Who-Knows-What

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page and our Appetite For a Change page.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is even considering allowing genetically engineered vaccines for organic livestock. Action Alert!

The NOSB-a division of the USDA-is responsible for regulating all organic crops and determining what can be called "Certified Organic." The board is meeting next week, and on the agenda will be whether to allow eight synthetic substances in organic baby food, primarily in organic infant formula.

The substances in question- ascorbyl palmitate, synthetic beta-carotene, a proprietary form of lutein, synthetic lycopene, synthetic l-carnitine, synthetic l-methionine, synthetic taurine, and nucleotides-all have organic alternatives, are not nutritionally necessary as additives, and might be difficult for the infant's body to process.

In particular, ascorbyl palmitate (AP) and synthetic beta carotene are used as preservatives in infant formula to prevent them from oxidizing and becoming rancid. However, organic standards state that synthetic ingredients cannot qualify as organic if their primary purpose is as a preservative. The International Formula Council, which is trying to get them included, is hoping to sneak around the restriction by never using the word "preservative" in its justification, instead calling them "antioxidants" and saying they "prevent rancidity." AP has no nutritional value; its sole purpose is to extend shelf life. This is the very definition of a preservative-and the opposite of an organic product. More to the point, organic alternatives exist for AP (such as rosemary extract and tocopherols) and also for synthetic beta carotene.

The NOSB background materials say "it remains inconclusive whether or not the body actually utilizes ascorbic acid that is metabolized from ascorbic palmitate," which makes AP particularly unsuitable for infants.


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