Organic Consumers Association

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Should Organic Foods have Synthetic Vitamins?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page and our Safeguard Organic Standards page.

Should synthetic vitamins and minerals be added to organic foods? Organic producers say yes, fearing their products would otherwise be unable to compete with fortified foods; but some consumers strongly disagree.

The Agriculture Department's Agricultural Marketing Service is preparing to renew rules allowing the addition of certain synthetics to organic food. It's accepting public comments at regulations.gov through Dec. 26.

The rules state that only nutrients the Food and Drug Administration has declared essential for health can be added to organic products. Those include vitamins A, C, D, E, iron, iodine, magnesium, zinc and many others. Any nutrient that isn't "essential" would require special approval.

So far, 24 commenters, including many companies that make organic products, have weighed in to support continuing to allow the addition of synthetic nutrients. Only six - all of whom are consumers - want them out.

Gwendolyn Wyard
of the Organic Trade Association says her group favors "the rational and safe addition of nutrients to foods in order to preserve a balance of nutrients in the consumer diet. We also support the maximum freedom of choice for organic consumers, and believe that organic products should be nutritionally equal to their conventional counterparts."

Sean Taylor of the International Association of Color Manufacturers argues that the rules strike a good balance between the need for certain nutrients and the concerns of organic shoppers. "These ingredients are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and thus are deemed safe without environmental concerns. They have also been evaluated previously by the National Organic Standards Board. The National Organic Program has deemed them appropriate for use in "organic" and "made with organic" products," he writes.

"If any of these substances were disallowed," he adds, "the quality, number and types of 'organic' and 'made with organic' products available could decrease."

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