DHA Omega-3 reaffirmed for use in organic foods by USDA board

DHA Omega-3 reaffirmed for use in organic foods by USDA board

The National Organic Standards Board recently renewed the use of DHA Omega-3 in organic food production, such as in Horizon Organic's fortified milk. Why is the decision so important for the organic dairy and vegetarian omega-3 industries?

Much to Horizon Organic's delight, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted unanimously Dec. 2 to approve the continued use of plant-based DHA Omega-3 in organic food production. The ingredient is a mainstay of Horizon Organic's DHA Omega-3 organic milk.

In April 2010, the 15 members of NOSB decided to revisit the decision to have DHA approved for organic products in what Molly Keveney, spokeswoman for Horizon Organic, calls a "procedural" move. Under the USDA's National Organic Program, the NOSB has the sole authority to recommend adding or removing substances from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, a list that includes what may and may not be used in organic crop and livestock production.  

"The safety or effectiveness [of the DHA] has never been questioned," said Keveney. "The NOSB was concerned that [the DHA] was extracted with the use of hexane, but the ingredient we use has never been extracted with the use of hexane. It's also non-synthetic and non-GMO."

During a four-day NOSB meeting last week, Horizon Organic, a WhiteWave Foods brand, provided comments and invited organic dairy farmers to explain why plant-based DHA is important to their business. The NOSB reaffirmed the ingredient's use on Friday, with an annotation that it must be extracted without the use of hexane, a petroleum-based solvent.

A win for organic dairy and vegetarian omega-3

Horizon Organic has sold its DHA omega-3 organic milk to millions of consumers over the past five years following its introduction, said Keveney. And in 2010 alone, the company reports, industry sales of organic milk with DHA omega-3 grew 54 percent.

"Organic milk with DHA omega-3 is an example of great innovation in the organic dairy category and it's really helped the category grow," said Keveney. "We've very happy with the NOSB's decision to continue to allow DHA into organic products. Any time you innovate in organic dairy, it's a win for organic dairy farmers."

The continued approval of vegetarian DHA, an ingredient that boasts brain, eye and heart health benefits, is also a major win for ingredient suppliers such as Martek Bioscience Corporation, one of the primary providers of the omega-3 oil. Its life'sDHA ingredient is found in products ranging from chocolate to eggs to infant formula.

Keveney attributes the success of milk plus DHA to the ingredient's inclusion in infant formula. "One of the key reasons it's been so successful is that new moms know breastfeeding is a great source of DHA, but if they're not able to breastfeed then they have the formula. And then [when the child grows up] the next logical step is organic milk with DHA."

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