Organic Consumers Association

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Despite its Horizon Brand, Dairy Giant Dean Foods Really Doesn't Get Organic

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Safeguard Organic Standards page, and our USDA Watch page.

Dean Foods is by far the largest U.S. dairy processor. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dean processes 40 percent of fluid milk consumed in the U.S., which it distrubutes in a dizzying array of brands. Its dominance extends to organic milk, too -- Dean's Horizon brand is the largest supplier of organic milk.

Dean's Horizon organic milk generates plenty of controversy. For years, Horizon has been sparring with the watchdog group Cornucopia over its farming practices, like use of conventionally raised heifers on its certified-organic farms. Cornucopia also goes after Dean for putting additives in its "organic" products. The latest dust-up is over a new Horizon product called "Fat-Free Milk Plus DHA Omega-3."

According to Cornucopia, the DHA in question is a "synthetic additive" banned under organic standards. Horizon counters that it has been using the synthetic DHA for years in its organic baby formula other organic-milk products [see correction below], with the approval of the USDA. Cornucopia shoots back that DHA-laced formula has been shown [PDF] to cause adverse reactions in babies -- and adds that USDA recently acknowledged [PDF] that it was "incorrect" to allow synthetic DHA in organic products in the first place.

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