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USDA Overrules NOSB Ruling on Carrageenan


According to the April 4th edition of the Federal Register, carrageenan will remain on the list of additives permitted in food products certified under the USDA organic program.

Carrageenan is extracted from seaweed and is a non-synthetic stabilizer added to products containing oils.

The National Organic Standards Board ruled 10 to 3 to remove carrageenan from then National List. There was no scientific justification for the exclusion and the NOSB maintained that xanthan gum was a suitable substitute. This contention was opposed in public comment which confirmed that carrageenan, a natural product cannot be effectively replaced by gums based on changes in texture, taste or other attributes.

 In commenting on the reversal of the NOSB, Michiel Van Genugten, manager of Seaweed Extracts and Colors owned by DuPont Nutrition and Health stated “We commend the USDA for taking seriously its responsibility to review the NOSB recommendation and make a decision based on facts and science.” He added “This decision will allow organic food producers to continue to use a safe, versatile ingredient.”

Predictably, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports opposed the decision stating “The USDA decision to ignore the NOSB recommendation raises serious concerns about the future of the organic label.” During the past decade this organization has promoted “healthful and natural” to the exclusion of reasonable evaluation. The tone of public comments and articles is progressively opposed to intensive livestock production and packaged foods. Consumer Reports performed a more valuable service when it rated toasters and lawnmowers!