USA: Cornucopia Institute on synthetic oils in infant formula
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The USDA’s National Organic Program has not enforced federal organic standards that prohibit the use of certain unapproved synthetic substances in organic infant formula and other organic foods. The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based food and farm policy research group, is taking action to rein in the practice with the re-filing of a formal legal complaint with the USDA calling for the removal of the additives from organic infant formula. The additives, DHA and ARA, are nutritional oils grown from fermented algae and soil fungus, and are being added to most conventional as well as organic formula brands. They have been linked to serious illness in some infants.
Cornucopia’s initial research, and a related investigation by the Washington Post, revealed that career regulatory staff at the National Organic Program (NOP) initially determined the addition of DHA and ARA to organic infant formula was illegal, but were overruled by the former Director of the program, Dr. Barbara Robinson, who has since been replaced as head of the NOP. And, a recently completed investigation and report by the Office of Inspector General at the USDA was harshly critical of Dr. Robinson during her tenure overseeing the organic program, the Cornucopia Institute reports. “With new management in place at the USDA and the National Organic Program, which has proclaimed we have entered the ‘age of enforcement,’ we are hopeful that the organic standards will finally be earnestly enforced,” says Mark Kastel, Cornucopia’s co-director.
In addition to organic brands of infant formula, such as Earth's Best, Similac and Wal-Mart’s Parent’s Choice, some brands of organic baby food and Horizon milk are also being supplemented with the novel oils, that have never been part of the human diet. Besides for the prohibition of hexane as a processing agent in organic food, non-agricultural synthetic additives of this nature are required to be reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board prior to inclusion in organic products. According to Cornucopia, a formal review of Martek’s additives has never taken place.
The Cornucopia Institute
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