NOSB’s vote to delist carrageenan viewed as ‘dangerous precedent,’ restrictive

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The National Organic Review Board’s decision Thursday to remove carrageenan from the list of allowable non-organic ingredients in organic products will limit consumers’ organic options, result in inferior products and sets a dangerous precedent for the remaining allowable ingredients, some industry stakeholders claim.

Others laud the NOSB for heeding the advice of the Handling Subcommittee to delist the controversial ingredient, which is commonly used as a thickener and emulsifier. The subcommittee’s recommendation was not related to the ingredient’s safety, which has been debated, but rather to its belief that there were sufficient other options to replace the ingredient.

But many stakeholders who presented at the NOSB meeting in St. Louis this week disagree -- saying the ingredient is safe and essential for some organic products.

“United 4 Food Science is discouraged that the National Organic Standards Board bowed to activist pressure and dubious science today by voting to remove carrageenan from the National List of ingredients approved for use in organic products,” said Susan Finn of United 4 Food Science, a coalition of scientists, academics, nutritionists, toxicologists and experts in agriculture and food production.

She explained “the Board’s recommendation would make it difficult for organic food products to compete with non-organic products on sensory attributes such as taste and texture. This outcome may lead to consumers deselecting organic foods altogether, which runs counter to the National Organic Program’s mission.”

Robert Rankin, executive director of the International Food Additives Council agreed with Finn, adding he is “disappointed the NOSB ignored overwhelming testimony that carrageenan is essential in the production of hundreds of organic foods and beverages. Delisting carrageenan will result in fewer organic options and inferior organic products as companies struggle to reformulate with alternatives that do not work as well as carrageenan.”

Rankin also claimed that the vote “sets a concerning precedent that could lead to other National List substances being targeted and removed despite feedback from organic producers that these ingredients are essential to organic production.”

Advocates continue to defend carrageenan

Advocates for the ingredient are not giving up their fight for carrageenan.

FMC Corporation noted that NOSB’s decision is an interim recommendation and not final. The US Department of Agriculture, which FMC says has supported carrageenan’s use in the past, is scheduled to make a final decision in a rule slated for November 2018.

“Moving forward, our coalition will continue to provide a convincing science-based case for the safety of carrageenan, as well as evidence of its essential value to many food formulations and its eco-friendly sustainability profile,” FMC said in a statement.

 Finn echoed FMC’s commitment, noting, “our broad coalition of food scientists, nutritionists, academics, toxicologists and food and agriculture experts will focus on convincing the US Department of Agriculture to reverse this decision and ensure scientific rigor remain in the regulatory review and decision-making process in Washington, DC.”

Some pleased by NOSB decision

Not everyone disagrees with NOSB's decision to delist carrageenan.

The Center for Food Safety's Cameron Harsh, senior manager for organic and animal policy, said the decision "is an enormous victory for organic integrity." In a statement he explained that consumers have "ardently" expressed discontent with the presence of carrageenan in organic products to the point that many companies using the ingredient have already reformulated products without it. He said this shift supports NOSB's decision to delist the ingredient on the grounds it is not essential. 

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Comments (1)

Mary Krause - 30 Dec 2016 | 05:22

What about other emulsifiers?

Are other emulsifiers, such as gum acacia or gum Arabic, being considered for investigation as possible inflammatory food additives?

30-Dec-2016 at 17:22 GMT

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