Supplementing organic milk, formula, and baby foods with fatty acids DHA and ARA, which have been shown in some studies to promote cognition and eyesight in babies—good idea, right? Quite possibly, but this week the USDA informed a few manufacturers of organic products, including Earth’s Best baby foods, Similac infant formula, and Horizon milk, that they will need to stop using synthetic versions of these fatty acids, which are now commonly used by both conventional and organic manufacturers.
The USDA isn’t saying these additives aren’t safe—just that they shouldn’t be in organic products. In recent weeks, the Obama administration’s USDA team has been flexing its enforcement muscles around food safety and labeling claims on food in general—and organic food in particular. In an interview, Kathleen Merrigan, a noted organics expert and the #2 USDA regulator, said organic regulators under the Bush administration in 2006 misinterpreted the National Organic Program’s guidelines by including the synthetic fatty acids on a list of nonorganic ingredients that are allowed in products that carry the USDA’s organic seal. (Manufacturers, who Merrigan said “acted in good faith,” will be given a grace period to reformulate their products, and the public will have 60 days to comment.)
Organic Valley recently debuted its own Omega-3 Milk, which uses kosher fish oil sustainably sourced from Peru. A complete source of omega-3s (DHA, EPA, and ALA), each serving has 50mg of DHA/EPA (one-third the daily recommended amount). I tried it at the Natural Products Expo West in March, and it tasted great!
Many organic advocates are pleased by the new USDA team’s stepping up of organic regulation enforcement, which they hope will strengthen the organic program, and consumer confidence in the organic label.
For more on organics, read “In Defense of Organics.”