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USDA to approve list of non-organic ingredients for organic food.

The Department of Agriculture is poised to approve a list of non-organic ingredients that can be used in food stamped with its green-and-white organic seal. An organic advisory board to USDA recommended that 38 non-organic ingredients be added to a list of approved ingredients. Rules on organic labeling dictate that 95 percent of a product must be organic to obtain the department's label; the remaining 5 percent can be non-organic if it comes from an approved list. To get on the approved list, an organic alternative to the ingredient must not be commercially available.

However, organic purists say that this list of ingredients is the latest example of big business trying to water down organic standards in an effort to cash in on the increased demand for organic products. They argue that allowing the non-organic ingredients will weaken the integrity of the organic label. "More than 90 percent of the food/agricultural items on the proposed list of materials in this rule are items that can easily be grown organically," said Merrill A. Clark, an organic farmer from Michigan and a former member of the organic advisory board, in comments to the Agriculture Department.

Two years ago a federal court ruled that USDA had to approve each non-organic agricultural product that was being used in organic food. Previously, non-organic agricultural products could be used as long as a certifying agent agreed that that they were not available as organic, at least not in the form, quality or quantity needed. The court gave manufacturers two years to find an organic alternative or to petition the Agriculture Department to include the ingredients on a list of approved non-organic agricultural products.

Andrea Caroe, the chairwoman of the advisory board, said she expected a decision soon. Even if the list is approved, she said, manufacturers would still need to show that the ingredients were not available in organic form.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Jun 18, 2007
Words:315
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