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Organic Consumers Association

OCA Calls On NOP To Get Carageenan Out Of Organics

  • Additive commonly used in organic and conventional foods, including infant formula, linked to higher rates of colon cancer
    By Katherine Paul
    Organic Consumers Association, May 14, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2013    

CONTACT
: Organic Consumers Association,
Katherine Paul, 207.653.3090; or Alexis Baden-Mayer, 202-744-0853

FINLAND, Minn. - The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today called on the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to ban the use of carrageenan in all organic products. Carrageenan, an additive commonly used in foods, and allowed in certified organic foods, is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of colon cancer. Under NOP rules, carrageenan’s approval is set to expire, or “sunset.” However, the NOP is recommending approval of carrageenan in organics for another five years.

In May 2012, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended that carrageenan be banned from use in organic infant formula, citing new studies from Europe – a recommendation the NOP chose to ignore for at least another five years on the basis that the NOSB's food safety concerns aren't supported by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

“Carrageenan should not be allowed in infant formula or any other organic food,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the OCA. “And we can't allow the organic program to be constrained by the opinions of the FDA on food safety. After all, this is the agency that insists it’s O.K. to eat olestra, saccharin, trans fats, aspartame, MSG, nitrates and parabens.”

Carrageenan is an emulsifier used to keep liquids from separating in organic juice, yogurt, chocolate milk and other dairy products, non-dairy alternatives – and even infant formula. According to the Cornucopia Institute's 2013 report, "Carrageenan: How a ‘Natural’ Food Additive Is Making Us Sick," research links carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation, including higher rates of colon cancer, in laboratory animals.

Companies that have lobbied for the continued use of carrageenan include the J.M. Smucker Co. brands Santa Cruz Organic and R. W. Knudsen Family, the Dean Foods brands WhiteWave and Horizon Organic, the Group Danone brand Stonyfield Farm, and farmer-owned Organic Valley. Responding to customer feedback,
Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley have since pledged to stop using carrageenan.

“We urge the NOP to adopt the NOSB's recommendation to remove carrageenan from infant formula, and from all organic products for that matter,” concluded Cummins. “Carrageenan is hazardous to human health, incompatible with organic principles, and not needed to produce organic food. The organic law requires the NOSB to investigate human health hazards, and there is no requirement that the NOSB draw the same conclusions as the FDA. USDA Organic would be meaningless if it had to include every food additive for every use allowed by the FDA.”

Evidence that carrageenan causes digestive problems and cancer can be found in the Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments.

Consumers can voice their opinion about carrageenan to the NOP by signing OCA’s petition by June 3. 

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.

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