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Buy Organic -- But Read the Label

TAKE ACTION! Tell Organic Brands to Stop Using Carrageenan! This Synthetic Ingredient Causes Digestive Problems and CancerEvery six months, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets to review the standards that govern the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). In the spirit of the organic community's credo of "continuous improvement," at each meeting, we should be seeing standards and enforcement tightening, and the small number of synthetics allowed in organic shrinking. Unfortunately, the trend over the last several meetings has been to add new ingredients to the National List of synthetics allowed in organic.

At the May 2012 meeting in Albuquerque, the NOSB carried out their legally mandated "sunset" review of carrageenan, and, despite disturbing evidence that this synthetic ingredient causes digestive problems and cancer, decided to allow it in organic for another 5 years.

Carrageenan is an emulsifier used in organic juice, yogurt, chocolate milk, and other dairy products and non-dairy alternatives. Companies lobbying the NOSB to continue to allow carrageenan included 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. Independently-owned Eden Foods, on the other hand, which used carrageenan in its chocolate soy milk, pledged to remove it.

In a repeat of its controversial move to add DHA and ARA to National List at the November 2011 meeting, the NOSB also added two new synthetic nutraceuticals, choline and inositol, for use in infant formula and pediatric medical foods, despite evidence that the manufacture of these synthetics leaves residues of 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Synthetic choline and inositol are already being used under a Bush-era rule on "accessory nutrients" that the Obama NOP found was illegal and is in the process of reversing. Companies lobbying to keep synthetic choline and inositol on the market included formula giant Nestle (also owns the Gerber brand), the Hain Celestial Group (owns Earth's Best) and all-organic brand Nature's One.