USDA refuses to enforce organic standards, allows questionable omega-3s in Horizon organic milk (correction)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: USDA, organic milk, health news

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CORRECTION: The following article originally contained errors that have since been corrected. The life'sDHA omega-3 and omega-6 additives used in some Horizon organic dairy products are NOT derived from genetically-modified (GM) sources. Additionally, these same additives have NOT been extracted using toxic hexane, but rather using 'enzymes.' The hexane-derived life'sDHA omega-3 and omega-6 additives are of a different origin, and are used only in infant formulas. However, the life'sDHA food additive variety of omega-3 and omega-6, which is currently used in some Horizon organic dairy products, has not been properly approved for use in organic products. We regret the original error contained in this story and have corrected it here.

(NaturalNews) The US Department of Agriculture is once again deliberately shirking its responsibility to properly oversee the integrity of the certified organic program. After admitting in a recent letter that a synthetic omega-3 fatty acid additive produced by Martek Biosciences Corporation is not legitimately organic, the USDA also said in the same letter that it does not plan to take any enforcement action against companies that use it in certified organic products. The Cornucopia Institute (CI), a leading organic industry watchdog, continues to call the USDA out on the matter, exposing the fact that the additive not only has a questionable safety record, but also does not belong in any organic product until properly approved.

The saga dates back to around 2002 when practically every major brand of infant formula began fortifying its blends with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), two omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids naturally found in human breast milk. Manufacturers began to claim these blends were superior than others, and the closest thing to actual human breast milk (

The type of DHA and ARA used in the formulas, however, is not the same as that found in breast milk. It is a laboratory-grown, synthetic variety made by Martek, which is now manufacturing a similar DHA/ARA additive for Horizon organic milk products. Though the type used by Horizon is not extracted using hexane, it is still a highly-processed additive that has not been properly approved for use in organic food products.

An earlier CI report explains that Martek's DHA/ARA blend for infant formulas is extracted using the toxic chemical hexane. Since the time of its approval, there have been hundreds of adverse event reports submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the additive causing serious health problems in children and babies (

If that is not bad enough, the USDA has known since 2006 that manufacturers were illegally adding the more harmful, hexane-extracted Martek DHA/ARA additive to organic baby formulas. Though the agency initially sent letters to the offending manufacturers ordering them to stop using the additive, a later Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that the agency ended up caving to corporate lobbyists by agreeing to permit the unapproved additive in organic formulas.

Now, the Horizon brand of organic dairy products has begun adding the unapproved chemical additive to some of its milk products -- and the USDA says it can continue to do so for an indefinite period of 'phase-out' time. CI says it may file a lawsuit against the USDA for its negligent stance on the issue, which flagrantly violates the agency's own organic standards and compromises the integrity of the entire organics program.

'Federal law clearly states that synthetic additives must be approved by the USDA, through a formal petition process, assuring their safety before they can legally be added to foods with the organic label,' stated Charlotte Vallaeys, a Farm and Food Policy Analyst with CI. 'Martek's Crypthecodinium cohnii and Schizochytrium oils (sources of DHA) and Mortierella alpina oil (a source of ARA) have never been approved, and the USDA has once again caved to industry lobbyists.'

To top it off, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recently proposed allowing any synthetic nutrient additive to be freely added to organic products without having to be properly reviewed. NOSB will debate and vote on the proposal at its next meeting in Seattle, April 26-29, 2011.

To voice your opposition against this heinous proposal, use the CI Action Alert here:

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