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Monday, January 17, 2011

UNLABELED NEOTAME: How long will it take for this monster molecule to permeate every fiber of the World's Food Supply?

by Mary Nash Stoddard - (Editor Deadly Deception Story of Aspartame)

With Neotame Unlabeled, PKU Fetuses And Young Children Are Left Unprotected By A Burned-Out FDA
January 9th, 2011 safbaby2 Posted in 0-1 yr, 1-3 yrs, 3-5 yrs, 5+ yrs, Allergies, Drinking, Feeding | 2 Comments »

We found this article so interesting, and concerned us so, that we are bringing it to you all today with the permissions to repost by Dr. Janet Hull, Alternative Heath And Nutrition.

Diet sodas, chewing gum, Tylenol, and other foods that you may not even be aware of often contain Aspartame, a chemical sweetener. One stat we heard even said 6,000 products on the market contain aspartame, so without a doubt is pays to really look deeply into ingredient lists. But will consciously reading all food labels help us now?

If you haven’t heard, aspartame is a nasty chemical that should never be given to our children! From hyperactivity and behavioral difficulties to brain tumors, mental retardation and even death, these are some of the unfortunate effects of our children consuming aspartame. And now, Neotame (a monster molecule “based on the aspartame formula”) has been ruled acceptable, and does not even have to be labeled as being in a product!!! Even a product that is ORGANIC!

Dr. Janet Hull, “The USDA, just as the FDA, may not be aware of everything added to food products – if an ingredient is less than 5% of a product, it does not have to be listed or reported to the FDA. So, as with hidden MSG and hidden aspartame, how does anyone know – other than the manufacturer? The USDA says Neotame is not approved for organics, but, again, how do they know – how do consumers know other to blindly trust? It’s up to the integrity of the manufacturer, and we all know that is questionable these days.


By Mary Nash Stoddard of The Aspartame Consumer Safety Network (ACSN)
Everyone wants to indulge a sweet tooth at this festive time of year, without suffering the inevitable consequences of weight gain. But, be aware of the hidden (not listed on ingredient labels) dangers of Neotame sweetener in almost everything consumed by humans, and now even in feed for livestock raised for human consumption.

In 1998, Monsanto applied for FDA approval for a monster molecule, “based on the aspartame formula” with one critical addition: 3-dimethylbutyl [listed on EPA's most hazardous chemical list]. Neotame is touted as being 13,000 times sweeter than sugar.

On July 5, 2002 – Monsanto’s Neotame molecule was approved by the USFDA over formally registered objections of the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network and others. (Long term effects on humans are unknown.) Read the full release on The Aspartame Consumer Safety Network.

The food labeling requirements required for aspartame have now been dropped for Neotame, and no one is clear why this was allowed to happen. Neotame has been ruled acceptable, by the USFDA for ALL foods, as a 'generally recognized as safe' [GRAS] substance and without being included on the list of ingredients. Based on past history with MSG, etc. could it be a hidden ingredient in the following?

1. USDA Certified Organic food items. How are these inspected to our strictest standards in countries such as: China, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, for example? Is it hiding under the guise of Natural Flavorings, Colors, like MSG type additives may be doing? Organic Consumer Association's Ronnie Cummins has registered formal objections with the USDA for not being forthcoming regarding whether or not certified organic substances also contain additives that could be problematic. We agree. A manufacturer can hide information behind the Confidential Business Information as well. This leads to suspicions of being less than honest about the contents/manufacturing process/handling with regard to the petitioned substance, such as colors and others. We believe all ingredients should be stated clearly regarding both active and inactive ingredients in organic products - allowing nothing to be concealed behind the nebulous phrase Natural Flavorings.

2. Certified Kosher products with the official letter k inside the circle on labels.

Ever ready to give the public what it craves – guilt-free, low calorie treats that taste as good as sugar, is the multi billion dollar sweetener industry. The sugar industry pales by comparison, in the profit generating arena. Fake sugars, in the form of Aspartame and now the Aspartame super clone, Neotame, give ‘foodies’ and fitness fanatics false hope and the empty promise that all can ‘have our cake and eat it, too.’ Not necessarily so.

Controversy has swirled around the artificial sweetener, Aspartame, now also known as AminoSweet, since its FDA approval in 1982. Virtually all corporate sponsored scientific studies show aspartame to be perfectly safe. Virtually all independently done studies show just the opposite. In the lab, Aspartame was shown to cause the following forms of cancers: brain tumors, pancreatic tumors, breast tumors and uterine tumors. Five deaths are registered with FDA. In more recent tests, leukemia, lymphoma and kidney cancers were discovered as well.

There is a parallel issue with which to compare the Aspartame issue. That of cigarettes and the deadly effects of smoking. The massive Tobacco Industry is able to produce large volumes of scientific studies showing smoking does not cause: lung cancer, heart disease, strokes or death. Today, mainstream science accepts the fact that smoking can be deadly and addictive. So it is with Aspartame, whose approval was based, not on scientific fact, but as an issue of public policy. (With Searle CEO, Donald Rumsfeld at the helm, shoving Aspartame through FDA, using all his considerable political clout to grease the wheels of government - calling in all his 'markers' in an all-out blitz.)

One form of subliminal advertising, called Product Placement, was successfully used in the 30’s through the 60’s, by the Tobacco Industry, in films, later on television and in newspaper articles. Product Placement has been successfully employed, in like manner, for Aspartame products, such as diet sodas, etc. Popular actors on sit coms asking pointedly for a Diet Coke, for example. Only once, in the film, I Love Trouble, have I noted seeing a diet drink consumed by the villain. This was in a film about a mythical chemical company which produced a neurotoxic bovine growth hormone product. Sound familiar?

Ironically, prior to U.S. government approval of this controversial new sweetener, Neotame was approved by the regulatory agency in Australia, the day after Donald Rumsfeld (former CEO of the drug company that falsified tests to gain Aspartame approval in the U.S.), was in that country for a one day meeting with government officials. Coincidence? Maybe.

What’s the latest, in-your-face, profit making method utilized by the makers of Neotame, partnering with a Health Care company in India? The most recent Press Release from the company explains novel new uses proposed for the ubiquitous new Aspartame formula-based sweetener, Neotame (Sweetos):

EnSigns Health Care Pvt Ltd and The NutraSweet Co USA have recently launched ‘Sweetos’, a cattle feed sweetener. Sweetos has been developed with Neotame, a high intensity sweetener.

Amino acids based sweetener Neotame is 8,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar and is a patented product of the NutraSweet Co USA. Ensigns is one of the leading manufacturer of Sweetos, low calorie sweeteners for the food industry. Together the two companies have launched this sweetener to be added to cattle feed.

Presently, molasses is used as a feed sweetener to mask the low palatable taste of certain non-conventional feed ingredients. But, the prices of molasses have sky rocketed due to its use as a raw material in alcohol production and other chemical manufacturing industries. Besides, there are stringent regulatory measures for purchase and use of molasses.

“Sweetos is an economical substitute for molasses. Sweetos guarantees the masking of unpleasant tastes and odor and improves the palatability of feed. This product will be economical for farmers and manufacturers of cattle feed. It can also be used in mineral mixture,” said Craig Petray, CEO, The NutraSweet Company.

Sweetos is 20 per cent cheaper than molasses, which costs Rs 14 per kg. While Sweetos is priced at Rs 11 per kg, which is available in both powder and liquid form. Ensigns’ has a manufacturing facility at Wagholi, where the company manufactures low calorie sweeteners for the food and beverage (F&B) industry containing sucralose. “We are in talks with the animal husbandry department to reach out to farmers and are trying to tie up with extension services with co-operative societies as well. Cattle consume more fodder when mixed with Sweetos. This product has great export potential as well,” said Mohan Nair, chairman, Ensigns Health Care.

The NutraSweet Company is looking at launching the same product in Brazil soon. It will also launch tabletop sweeteners and products in India. India also has approved the usage of Neotame in the F&B industry in July 2010. Ensigns, therefore, also plans to replace its sucralose based sweetening products with Neotame soon.

___________________________________________________

Diet sweeteners being used to fatten cattle, by causing them to eat more feed, before they become your favorite burger, steak, cheese or other dairy product? This NutraSweet produced document proves our point that Aspartame, Neotame and related sweeteners cause weight gain, loss of appetite control (and cancers) – in animals and humans.
Find out more about which neuroexcitatory sweeteners are in your foods, beverages and chewing gums. Eliminating them could be a life saving decision.
###
Mary Nash Stoddard is a freelance journalist, lecturer, expert medical witness, former member President’s Council on Food Safety, voting member Texas Radio Hall of Fame and founder of Aspartame Consumer Safety Network and Pilot Hotline (1987-present). Mary edits the toxicology source book, Deadly Deception Story of Aspartame.

Her articles appear regularly in print publications and on the Internet on a Food Safety Blog:
Stoddard’s POV: http://www.marystod.blogspot.com/
ACSN site: http://www.aspartamesafety.com

Safe Baby Addresses Issues of FDA Neotame Approval

Thursday, January 13, 2011

National Organic Program Press Release Solicits Public Comment

You are here: Home / Latest Releases / Made with Organic Labeling Guidance Open for Public Comment



News Release


Printable version

Made with Organic Labeling Guidance Open for Public Comment

AMS No. 233-10


Soo Kim (202) 720-8998
Soo.kim@ams.usda.gov


WASHINGTON, Jan 13, 2010—The National Organic Program announced today the availability of draft guidance for public input concerning products labeled “made with organic [specified ingredients or food group(s)].”


Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can be labeled “made with organic [specified ingredients or food group(s)].” For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled “soup made with organic vegetables.”


The document addresses the use of non-organic ingredients in “made with organic” products and clarifies the use of percentage statements under the “made with organic” labeling category.


“This guidance is intended to ensure consistency across the organic food industry,” said Miles McEvoy, Deputy Administrator of the NOP. “For example, it answers questions about what ingredients may be used within the 30 percent non-organic portion of ‘made with organic’ products.”


The NOP invites organic producers, handlers, certifying agents, consumers and other interested parties to submit comments about the guidance provisions. The draft guidance is available for comment in the Federal Register until March 14, 2011, at www.regulations.gov (filed under document number AMS-NOP-10-0045). Comments can also be submitted to Toni Strother, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-NOP, Room 2646-So., Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0268. Clearly indicate the provision being addressed, support for or opposition to it, and the reason(s) for your position.


The NOP will consider all comments submitted by March 14, 2011, before issuing the final guidance. Once finalized, the guidance will be available as part of the Program Handbook: Guidance and Instructions for Accredited Certifying Agents (ACAs) and Certified Operations. Current edition of the Program Handbook is available online at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPProgramHandbook or in print upon request.


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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (Voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BUSINESS WEEK on USDA Certified Organic Foods

 http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_42/b4005001.htm

OCTOBER 16, 2006  


The Organic Myth 

Pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food goes mass market 


Next time you're in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we've come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.


So it may come as a surprise that Stonyfield's organic farm is long gone. Its main facility is a state-of-the-art industrial plant just off the airport strip in Londonderry, N.H., where it handles milk from other farms. And consider this: Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stonyfield still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirshberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. "It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house," he says. "But once you're in organic, you have to source globally."




Hirshberg's dilemma is that of the entire organic food business. Just as mainstream consumers are growing hungry for untainted food that also nourishes their social conscience, it is getting harder and harder to find organic ingredients. There simply aren't enough organic cows in the U.S., never mind the organic grain to feed them, to go around. Nor are there sufficient organic strawberries, sugar, or apple pulp -- some of the other ingredients that go into the world's best-selling organic yogurt.


Now companies from Wal-Mart (WMT ) to General Mills (GIS ) to Kellogg (K ) are wading into the organic game, attracted by fat margins that old-fashioned food purveyors can only dream of. What was once a cottage industry of family farms has become Big Business, with all that that implies, including pressure from Wall Street to scale up and boost profits. Hirshberg himself is under the gun because he has sold an 85% stake in Stonyfield to the French food giant Groupe Danone. To retain management control, he has to keep Stonyfield growing at double-digit rates. Yet faced with a supply crunch, he has drastically cut the percentage of organic products in his line. He also has scaled back annual sales growth, from almost 40% to 20%. "They're all mad at me," he says.


As food companies scramble to find enough organically grown ingredients, they are inevitably forsaking the pastoral ethos that has defined the organic lifestyle. For some companies, it means keeping thousands of organic cows on industrial-scale feedlots. For others, the scarcity of organic ingredients means looking as far afield as China, Sierra Leone, and Brazil -- places where standards may be hard to enforce, workers' wages and living conditions are a worry, and, say critics, increased farmland sometimes comes at a cost to the environment.


Everyone agrees on the basic definition of organic: food grown without the assistance of man-made chemicals. Four years ago, under pressure from critics fretting that the term "organic" was being misused, the U.S. Agriculture Dept. issued rules. To be certified as organic, companies must eschew most pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, and radiation. But for purists, the philosophy also requires farmers to treat their people and livestock with respect and, ideally, to sell small batches of what they produce locally so as to avoid burning fossil fuels to transport them. The USDA rules don't fully address these concerns.


Hence the organic paradox: The movement's adherents have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but success has imperiled their ideals. It simply isn't clear that organic food production can be replicated on a mass scale. For Hirshberg, who set out to "change the way Kraft (KFT ), Monsanto (MON ), and everybody else does business," the movement is shedding its innocence. "Organic is growing up."


Certainly, life has changed since 1983, when Hirshberg teamed up with a back-to-the-land advocate named Samuel Kaymen to sell small batches of full-fat plain organic yogurt. Kaymen had founded Stonyfield Farm to feed his six kids and, as he puts it, "escape the dominant culture." Hirshberg, then 29, had been devoted to the environment for years, stung by memories of technicolor dyes streaming downriver from his father's New Hampshire shoe factories. He wrote a book on how to build water-pumping windmills and, between 1979 and 1983, ran the New Alchemy Institute, an alternative-living research center on Cape Cod. He was a believer.


But producing yogurt amid the rudimentary conditions of the original Stonyfield Farm was a recipe for nightmares, not nirvana. Meg, an organic farmer who married Hirshberg in 1986, remembers the farm as cold and crowded, with a road so perilous that suppliers often refused to come up. "I call it the bad old days," she says. Adds her mother, Doris Cadoux, who propped up the business for years: "Every time Gary would come to me for money, Meg would call to say 'Mama, don't do it."'


Farming without insecticides, fertilizers, and other aids is tough. Laborers often weed the fields by hand. Farmers control pests with everything from sticky flypaper to aphid-munching ladybugs. Manure and soil fertility must be carefully managed. Sick animals may take longer to get well without a quick hit of antibiotics, although they're likely to be healthier in the first place. Moreover, the yield per acre or per animal often goes down, at least initially. Estimates for the decline from switching to organic corn range up to 20%.


Organic farmers say they can ultimately exceed the yields of conventional rivals through smarter soil management. But some believe organic farming, if it is to stay true to its principles, would require vastly more land and resources than is currently being used. Asks Alex Avery, a research director at the Hudson Institute think tank: "How much Bambi habitat do you want to plow down?"


IMPOSSIBLE STANDARD 

For a sense of why Big Business and organics often don't mix, it helps to visit Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm. The duo have been producing organic yogurt in northeastern Vermont since 1975. Their 45 milking cows are raised from birth and have names like Peaches and Moonlight. All of the food for the cows -- and most of what the Lazors eat, too -- comes from the farm, and Anne keeps their charges healthy with a mix of homeopathic medicines and nutritional supplements. Butterworks produces a tiny 9,000 quarts of yogurt a week, and no one can pressure them to make more. Says Jack: "I'd be happiest to sell everything within 10 miles of here."


But the Lazors also embody an ideal that's almost impossible for other food producers to fulfill. For one thing, they have enough land to let their modest-sized herd graze for food. Many of the country's 9 million-plus dairy cows (of which fewer than 150,000 are organic) are on farms that will never have access to that kind of pasture. After all, a cow can only walk so far when it has to come back to be milked two or three times a day.


STEWARDS OF THE LAND 

When consumers shell out premiums of 50% or more to buy organic, they are voting for the Butterworks ethic. They believe humans should be prudent custodians not only of their own health but also of the land and animals that share it. They prefer food produced through fair wages and family farms, not poor workers and agribusiness. They are responding to tales of caged chickens and confined cows that never touch a blade of grass; talk of men losing fertility and girls becoming women at age nine because of extra hormones in food. They read about pesticides seeping into the food supply and genetically modified crops creeping across the landscape.


For Big Food, consumers' love affair with everything organic has seemed like a gift from the gods. Food is generally a commoditized, sluggish business, especially in basic supermarket staples. Sales of organic groceries, on the other hand, have been surging by up to 20% in recent years. Organic milk is so profitable -- with wholesale prices more than double that of conventional milk -- that Lyle "Spud" Edwards of Westfield, Vt., was able to halve his herd, to 25 cows, this summer and still make a living, despite a 15% drop in yields since switching to organic four years ago. "There's a lot more paperwork, but it's worth it," says Edwards, who supplies milk to Stonyfield.


The food industry got a boost four years ago when the USDA issued its organic standards. The "USDA Organic" label now appears on scores of products, from chicken breasts to breakfast cereal. And you know a tipping point is at hand when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. enters the game. The retailer pledged this year to become a center of affordable "organics for everyone" and has started by doubling its organic offerings at 374 stores nationwide. "Everyone wants a piece of the pie," says George L. Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the country's largest organic farm co- operative. "Kraft and Wal-Mart are part of the community now, and we have to get used to it."


The corporate giants have turned a fringe food category into a $14 billion business. They have brought wider distribution and marketing dollars. They have imposed better quality controls on a sector once associated with bug-infested, battered produce rotting in crates at hippie co-ops. Organic products now account for 2.5% of all grocery spending (if additive-free "natural" foods are included, the share jumps to about 10%). And demand could soar if prices come down.


But success has brought home the problems of trying to feed the masses in an industry where supplies can be volatile. Everyone from Wal-Mart to Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST ) is feeling the pinch. Earlier this year, Earthbound Farm, a California producer of organic salads, fruit, and vegetables owned by Natural Selection Foods, cut off its sliced-apple product to Costco because supply dried up -- even though Earthbound looked as far afield as New Zealand. "The concept of running out of apples is foreign to these people," says Earthbound co-founder Myra Goodman, whose company recalled bagged spinach in the wake of the recent E. coli outbreak. "When you're sourcing conventional produce, it's a matter of the best product at the best price."


Inconsistency is a hallmark of organic food. Variations in animal diet, local conditions, and preparation make food taste different from batch to batch. But that's anathema to a modern food giant. Heinz, for one, had a lot of trouble locating herbs and spices for its organic ketchup. "We're a global company that has to deliver consistent standards," says Kristen Clark, a group vice-president for marketing. The volatile supply also forced Heinz to put dried or fresh organic herbs in its organic Classico pasta sauce because it wasn't able to find the more convenient quick-frozen variety. Even Wal-Mart, master of the modern food supply chain, is humbled by the realities of going organic. As spokesperson Gail Lavielle says: "You can't negotiate prices in a market like that."


While Americans may love the idea of natural food, they have come to rely on the perks of agribusiness. Since the widespread use of synthetic pesticides began, around the time of World War II, food producers have reaped remarkable gains. Apples stay red and juicy for weeks. The average harvested acre of farmland yields 200% more wheat than it did 70 years ago. Over the past two decades chickens have grown 25% bigger in less time and on less food. At the same time, the average cow produces 60% more milk, thanks to innovations in breeding, nutrition, and synthetic hormones.


It's also worth remembering how inexpensive food is these days. Americans shell out about 10% of their disposable income on food, about half what they spent in the first part of the 20th century. Producing a budget-priced cornucopia of organic food won't be easy.


Exhibit A: Gary Hirshberg's quest for organic milk. Dairy producers estimate that demand for organic milk is at least twice the current available supply. To quench this thirst, the U.S. would have to more than double the number of organic cows -- those that eat only organic food -- to 280,000 over the next five years. That's a challenge, since the number of dairy farms has shrunk to 60,000, from 334,000 in 1980, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. And almost half the milk produced in the U.S. comes from farms with more than 500 cows, something organic advocates rarely support.


What to do? If you're Hirshberg, you weigh the pros and cons of importing organic milk powder from New Zealand. Stonyfield already gets strawberries from China, apple puree from Turkey, blueberries from Canada, and bananas from Ecuador. It's the only way to keep the business growing. Besides, Hirshberg argues, supporting a family farmer in Madagascar or reducing chemical use in Costa Rica is just as important as doing the same at home.


Perhaps, but doing so risks a consumer backlash, especially when the organic food is from China. So far there is little evidence that crops from there are tainted or fraudulently labeled. Any food that bears the USDA Organic label has to be accredited by an independent certifier. But tests are few and far between. Moreover, many consumers don't trust food from a country that continues to manufacture DDT and tolerates fakes in other industries. Similar questions are being asked about much of the developing world. Ronnie Cummins, national director of the nonprofit Organic Consumers Assn., claims organic farms may contribute to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, although conventional farming remains the proven culprit.


Imported organics are a constant concern for food companies and supermarkets. It's certainly on Steve Pimentel's mind. "Someone is going to do something wrong," says Costco's assistant general merchandise manager. "We want to make sure it's not us." To avoid nasty surprises, Costco makes sure its own certifiers check that standards are met in China for the organic peanuts and produce it imports. Over at Stonyfield, Hirshberg's sister, Nancy, who is vice-president of natural resources, was so worried about buying strawberries in northeastern China that she ordered a social audit to check worker conditions. "If I didn't have to buy from there," she says, "I wouldn't."


For many companies, the preferred option is staying home and adopting the industrial scale of agribusiness. Naturally, giant factory farms make purists recoil. Is an organic label appropriate for eggs produced in sheds housing more than 100,000 hens that rarely see the light of day? Can a chicken that's debeaked or allowed minimal access to the outdoors be deemed organic? Would consumers be willing to pay twice as much for organic milk if they thought the cows producing it spent most of their outdoor lives in confined dirt lots?


ETHICAL CHALLENGES? 

Absolutely not, say critics such as Mark Kastel, director of the Organic Integrity Project at the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group promoting small family farms. "Organic consumers think they're supporting a different kind of ethic," says Kastel, who last spring released a high-profile report card labeling 11 producers as ethically challenged.


Kastel's report card included Horizon Organic Dairy, the No. 1 organic milk brand in the U.S., and Aurora Organic Dairy, which makes private-label products for the likes of Costco and Safeway Inc. Both dairies deny they are ethically challenged. But the two do operate massive corporate farms. Horizon has 8,000 cows in the Idaho desert. There, the animals consume such feed as corn, barley, hay, and soybeans, as well as some grass from pastureland. The company is currently reconfiguring its facility to allow more grazing opportunities. And none of this breaks USDA rules. The agency simply says animals must have "access to pasture." How much is not spelled out. "It doesn't say [livestock] have to be out there, happy and feeding, 18 hours a day," says Barbara C. Robinson, who oversees the USDA's National Organic Program.


But what gets people like Kastel fuming is the fact that big dairy farms produce tons of pollution in the form of manure and methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide -- gases blamed for warming the planet. Referring to Horizon's Idaho farm, he adds: "This area is in perpetual drought. You need to pump water constantly to grow pasture. That's not organic."


Aurora and Horizon argue their operations are true to the organic spirit and that big farms help bring organic food to the masses. Joe E. Scalzo, president and CEO of Horizon's owner, WhiteWave, which is owned by Dean Foods Co., says: "You need the 12-cow farms in Vermont -- and the 4,000 milking cows in Idaho." Adds Clark Driftmier, a spokesman for Aurora, which manages 8,400 dairy cows on two farms in Colorado and Texas: "We're in a contentious period with organics right now."


At the USDA, Robinson is grappling with the same imponderables. In her mind the controversy is more about scale than animal treatment. "The real issue is a fear of large corporations," she says. Robinson expects the USDA to tighten pasture rules in the coming months in hopes of moving closer to the spirit of the organic philosophy. "As programs go," she says, "this is just a toddler. New issues keep coming up."


Few people seem more hemmed in by the contradictions than Gary Hirshberg. Perhaps more than anyone, he has acted as the industry's philosopher king, lobbying governments, proselytizing consumers, helping farmers switch to organic, and giving 10% of profits to environmental causes. Yet he sold most of Stonyfield Farm to a $17 billion French corporation.


He did so partly to let his original investors cash out, partly to bring organic food to the masses. But inevitably, as Stonyfield has morphed from local outfit to national brand, some of the original tenets have fallen by the wayside. Once Danone bought a stake, Stonyfield founder Samuel Kaymen moved on. "I never felt comfortable with the scale or dealing with people so far away," he recalls, although he says Hirshberg has so far managed to uphold the company's original principles.


The hard part may be continuing to do so with Danone looking over his shoulder. Hirshberg retains board control but says his "autonomy and independence and employment are contingent on delivering minimum growth and profitability." Danone Chairman and CEO Franck Riboud expresses admiration for the man he considers to be Danone's organic guru, but adds: "Gary respects that I have to answer to shareholders."


The compromises that Hirshberg is willing to make say a lot about where the organic business is headed. "Our kids don't have time for us to sit on our high horses and say we're not going to do this because it's not ecologically perfect," says Hirshberg. "The only way to influence the powerful forces in this industry is to become a powerful force." And he's willing to do that, even if it means playing by a new set of rules. 


By Diane Brady

 BW MALL 



Inconsistencies Possible In USDA Certified Organic says BUSINESS WEEK

 http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_42/b4005001.htm

OCTOBER 16, 2006  


The Organic Myth 

Pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food goes mass market 


Next time you're in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we've come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.


So it may come as a surprise that Stonyfield's organic farm is long gone. Its main facility is a state-of-the-art industrial plant just off the airport strip in Londonderry, N.H., where it handles milk from other farms. And consider this: Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stonyfield still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirshberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. "It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house," he says. "But once you're in organic, you have to source globally."




Hirshberg's dilemma is that of the entire organic food business. Just as mainstream consumers are growing hungry for untainted food that also nourishes their social conscience, it is getting harder and harder to find organic ingredients. There simply aren't enough organic cows in the U.S., never mind the organic grain to feed them, to go around. Nor are there sufficient organic strawberries, sugar, or apple pulp -- some of the other ingredients that go into the world's best-selling organic yogurt.


Now companies from Wal-Mart (WMT ) to General Mills (GIS ) to Kellogg (K ) are wading into the organic game, attracted by fat margins that old-fashioned food purveyors can only dream of. What was once a cottage industry of family farms has become Big Business, with all that that implies, including pressure from Wall Street to scale up and boost profits. Hirshberg himself is under the gun because he has sold an 85% stake in Stonyfield to the French food giant Groupe Danone. To retain management control, he has to keep Stonyfield growing at double-digit rates. Yet faced with a supply crunch, he has drastically cut the percentage of organic products in his line. He also has scaled back annual sales growth, from almost 40% to 20%. "They're all mad at me," he says.


As food companies scramble to find enough organically grown ingredients, they are inevitably forsaking the pastoral ethos that has defined the organic lifestyle. For some companies, it means keeping thousands of organic cows on industrial-scale feedlots. For others, the scarcity of organic ingredients means looking as far afield as China, Sierra Leone, and Brazil -- places where standards may be hard to enforce, workers' wages and living conditions are a worry, and, say critics, increased farmland sometimes comes at a cost to the environment.


Everyone agrees on the basic definition of organic: food grown without the assistance of man-made chemicals. Four years ago, under pressure from critics fretting that the term "organic" was being misused, the U.S. Agriculture Dept. issued rules. To be certified as organic, companies must eschew most pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, and radiation. But for purists, the philosophy also requires farmers to treat their people and livestock with respect and, ideally, to sell small batches of what they produce locally so as to avoid burning fossil fuels to transport them. The USDA rules don't fully address these concerns.


Hence the organic paradox: The movement's adherents have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but success has imperiled their ideals. It simply isn't clear that organic food production can be replicated on a mass scale. For Hirshberg, who set out to "change the way Kraft (KFT ), Monsanto (MON ), and everybody else does business," the movement is shedding its innocence. "Organic is growing up."


Certainly, life has changed since 1983, when Hirshberg teamed up with a back-to-the-land advocate named Samuel Kaymen to sell small batches of full-fat plain organic yogurt. Kaymen had founded Stonyfield Farm to feed his six kids and, as he puts it, "escape the dominant culture." Hirshberg, then 29, had been devoted to the environment for years, stung by memories of technicolor dyes streaming downriver from his father's New Hampshire shoe factories. He wrote a book on how to build water-pumping windmills and, between 1979 and 1983, ran the New Alchemy Institute, an alternative-living research center on Cape Cod. He was a believer.


But producing yogurt amid the rudimentary conditions of the original Stonyfield Farm was a recipe for nightmares, not nirvana. Meg, an organic farmer who married Hirshberg in 1986, remembers the farm as cold and crowded, with a road so perilous that suppliers often refused to come up. "I call it the bad old days," she says. Adds her mother, Doris Cadoux, who propped up the business for years: "Every time Gary would come to me for money, Meg would call to say 'Mama, don't do it."'


Farming without insecticides, fertilizers, and other aids is tough. Laborers often weed the fields by hand. Farmers control pests with everything from sticky flypaper to aphid-munching ladybugs. Manure and soil fertility must be carefully managed. Sick animals may take longer to get well without a quick hit of antibiotics, although they're likely to be healthier in the first place. Moreover, the yield per acre or per animal often goes down, at least initially. Estimates for the decline from switching to organic corn range up to 20%.


Organic farmers say they can ultimately exceed the yields of conventional rivals through smarter soil management. But some believe organic farming, if it is to stay true to its principles, would require vastly more land and resources than is currently being used. Asks Alex Avery, a research director at the Hudson Institute think tank: "How much Bambi habitat do you want to plow down?"


IMPOSSIBLE STANDARD 

For a sense of why Big Business and organics often don't mix, it helps to visit Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm. The duo have been producing organic yogurt in northeastern Vermont since 1975. Their 45 milking cows are raised from birth and have names like Peaches and Moonlight. All of the food for the cows -- and most of what the Lazors eat, too -- comes from the farm, and Anne keeps their charges healthy with a mix of homeopathic medicines and nutritional supplements. Butterworks produces a tiny 9,000 quarts of yogurt a week, and no one can pressure them to make more. Says Jack: "I'd be happiest to sell everything within 10 miles of here."


But the Lazors also embody an ideal that's almost impossible for other food producers to fulfill. For one thing, they have enough land to let their modest-sized herd graze for food. Many of the country's 9 million-plus dairy cows (of which fewer than 150,000 are organic) are on farms that will never have access to that kind of pasture. After all, a cow can only walk so far when it has to come back to be milked two or three times a day.


STEWARDS OF THE LAND 

When consumers shell out premiums of 50% or more to buy organic, they are voting for the Butterworks ethic. They believe humans should be prudent custodians not only of their own health but also of the land and animals that share it. They prefer food produced through fair wages and family farms, not poor workers and agribusiness. They are responding to tales of caged chickens and confined cows that never touch a blade of grass; talk of men losing fertility and girls becoming women at age nine because of extra hormones in food. They read about pesticides seeping into the food supply and genetically modified crops creeping across the landscape.


For Big Food, consumers' love affair with everything organic has seemed like a gift from the gods. Food is generally a commoditized, sluggish business, especially in basic supermarket staples. Sales of organic groceries, on the other hand, have been surging by up to 20% in recent years. Organic milk is so profitable -- with wholesale prices more than double that of conventional milk -- that Lyle "Spud" Edwards of Westfield, Vt., was able to halve his herd, to 25 cows, this summer and still make a living, despite a 15% drop in yields since switching to organic four years ago. "There's a lot more paperwork, but it's worth it," says Edwards, who supplies milk to Stonyfield.


The food industry got a boost four years ago when the USDA issued its organic standards. The "USDA Organic" label now appears on scores of products, from chicken breasts to breakfast cereal. And you know a tipping point is at hand when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. enters the game. The retailer pledged this year to become a center of affordable "organics for everyone" and has started by doubling its organic offerings at 374 stores nationwide. "Everyone wants a piece of the pie," says George L. Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the country's largest organic farm co- operative. "Kraft and Wal-Mart are part of the community now, and we have to get used to it."


The corporate giants have turned a fringe food category into a $14 billion business. They have brought wider distribution and marketing dollars. They have imposed better quality controls on a sector once associated with bug-infested, battered produce rotting in crates at hippie co-ops. Organic products now account for 2.5% of all grocery spending (if additive-free "natural" foods are included, the share jumps to about 10%). And demand could soar if prices come down.


But success has brought home the problems of trying to feed the masses in an industry where supplies can be volatile. Everyone from Wal-Mart to Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST ) is feeling the pinch. Earlier this year, Earthbound Farm, a California producer of organic salads, fruit, and vegetables owned by Natural Selection Foods, cut off its sliced-apple product to Costco because supply dried up -- even though Earthbound looked as far afield as New Zealand. "The concept of running out of apples is foreign to these people," says Earthbound co-founder Myra Goodman, whose company recalled bagged spinach in the wake of the recent E. coli outbreak. "When you're sourcing conventional produce, it's a matter of the best product at the best price."


Inconsistency is a hallmark of organic food. Variations in animal diet, local conditions, and preparation make food taste different from batch to batch. But that's anathema to a modern food giant. Heinz, for one, had a lot of trouble locating herbs and spices for its organic ketchup. "We're a global company that has to deliver consistent standards," says Kristen Clark, a group vice-president for marketing. The volatile supply also forced Heinz to put dried or fresh organic herbs in its organic Classico pasta sauce because it wasn't able to find the more convenient quick-frozen variety. Even Wal-Mart, master of the modern food supply chain, is humbled by the realities of going organic. As spokesperson Gail Lavielle says: "You can't negotiate prices in a market like that."


While Americans may love the idea of natural food, they have come to rely on the perks of agribusiness. Since the widespread use of synthetic pesticides began, around the time of World War II, food producers have reaped remarkable gains. Apples stay red and juicy for weeks. The average harvested acre of farmland yields 200% more wheat than it did 70 years ago. Over the past two decades chickens have grown 25% bigger in less time and on less food. At the same time, the average cow produces 60% more milk, thanks to innovations in breeding, nutrition, and synthetic hormones.


It's also worth remembering how inexpensive food is these days. Americans shell out about 10% of their disposable income on food, about half what they spent in the first part of the 20th century. Producing a budget-priced cornucopia of organic food won't be easy.


Exhibit A: Gary Hirshberg's quest for organic milk. Dairy producers estimate that demand for organic milk is at least twice the current available supply. To quench this thirst, the U.S. would have to more than double the number of organic cows -- those that eat only organic food -- to 280,000 over the next five years. That's a challenge, since the number of dairy farms has shrunk to 60,000, from 334,000 in 1980, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. And almost half the milk produced in the U.S. comes from farms with more than 500 cows, something organic advocates rarely support.


What to do? If you're Hirshberg, you weigh the pros and cons of importing organic milk powder from New Zealand. Stonyfield already gets strawberries from China, apple puree from Turkey, blueberries from Canada, and bananas from Ecuador. It's the only way to keep the business growing. Besides, Hirshberg argues, supporting a family farmer in Madagascar or reducing chemical use in Costa Rica is just as important as doing the same at home.


Perhaps, but doing so risks a consumer backlash, especially when the organic food is from China. So far there is little evidence that crops from there are tainted or fraudulently labeled. Any food that bears the USDA Organic label has to be accredited by an independent certifier. But tests are few and far between. Moreover, many consumers don't trust food from a country that continues to manufacture DDT and tolerates fakes in other industries. Similar questions are being asked about much of the developing world. Ronnie Cummins, national director of the nonprofit Organic Consumers Assn., claims organic farms may contribute to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, although conventional farming remains the proven culprit.


Imported organics are a constant concern for food companies and supermarkets. It's certainly on Steve Pimentel's mind. "Someone is going to do something wrong," says Costco's assistant general merchandise manager. "We want to make sure it's not us." To avoid nasty surprises, Costco makes sure its own certifiers check that standards are met in China for the organic peanuts and produce it imports. Over at Stonyfield, Hirshberg's sister, Nancy, who is vice-president of natural resources, was so worried about buying strawberries in northeastern China that she ordered a social audit to check worker conditions. "If I didn't have to buy from there," she says, "I wouldn't."


For many companies, the preferred option is staying home and adopting the industrial scale of agribusiness. Naturally, giant factory farms make purists recoil. Is an organic label appropriate for eggs produced in sheds housing more than 100,000 hens that rarely see the light of day? Can a chicken that's debeaked or allowed minimal access to the outdoors be deemed organic? Would consumers be willing to pay twice as much for organic milk if they thought the cows producing it spent most of their outdoor lives in confined dirt lots?


ETHICAL CHALLENGES? 

Absolutely not, say critics such as Mark Kastel, director of the Organic Integrity Project at the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group promoting small family farms. "Organic consumers think they're supporting a different kind of ethic," says Kastel, who last spring released a high-profile report card labeling 11 producers as ethically challenged.


Kastel's report card included Horizon Organic Dairy, the No. 1 organic milk brand in the U.S., and Aurora Organic Dairy, which makes private-label products for the likes of Costco and Safeway Inc. Both dairies deny they are ethically challenged. But the two do operate massive corporate farms. Horizon has 8,000 cows in the Idaho desert. There, the animals consume such feed as corn, barley, hay, and soybeans, as well as some grass from pastureland. The company is currently reconfiguring its facility to allow more grazing opportunities. And none of this breaks USDA rules. The agency simply says animals must have "access to pasture." How much is not spelled out. "It doesn't say [livestock] have to be out there, happy and feeding, 18 hours a day," says Barbara C. Robinson, who oversees the USDA's National Organic Program.


But what gets people like Kastel fuming is the fact that big dairy farms produce tons of pollution in the form of manure and methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide -- gases blamed for warming the planet. Referring to Horizon's Idaho farm, he adds: "This area is in perpetual drought. You need to pump water constantly to grow pasture. That's not organic."


Aurora and Horizon argue their operations are true to the organic spirit and that big farms help bring organic food to the masses. Joe E. Scalzo, president and CEO of Horizon's owner, WhiteWave, which is owned by Dean Foods Co., says: "You need the 12-cow farms in Vermont -- and the 4,000 milking cows in Idaho." Adds Clark Driftmier, a spokesman for Aurora, which manages 8,400 dairy cows on two farms in Colorado and Texas: "We're in a contentious period with organics right now."


At the USDA, Robinson is grappling with the same imponderables. In her mind the controversy is more about scale than animal treatment. "The real issue is a fear of large corporations," she says. Robinson expects the USDA to tighten pasture rules in the coming months in hopes of moving closer to the spirit of the organic philosophy. "As programs go," she says, "this is just a toddler. New issues keep coming up."


Few people seem more hemmed in by the contradictions than Gary Hirshberg. Perhaps more than anyone, he has acted as the industry's philosopher king, lobbying governments, proselytizing consumers, helping farmers switch to organic, and giving 10% of profits to environmental causes. Yet he sold most of Stonyfield Farm to a $17 billion French corporation.


He did so partly to let his original investors cash out, partly to bring organic food to the masses. But inevitably, as Stonyfield has morphed from local outfit to national brand, some of the original tenets have fallen by the wayside. Once Danone bought a stake, Stonyfield founder Samuel Kaymen moved on. "I never felt comfortable with the scale or dealing with people so far away," he recalls, although he says Hirshberg has so far managed to uphold the company's original principles.


The hard part may be continuing to do so with Danone looking over his shoulder. Hirshberg retains board control but says his "autonomy and independence and employment are contingent on delivering minimum growth and profitability." Danone Chairman and CEO Franck Riboud expresses admiration for the man he considers to be Danone's organic guru, but adds: "Gary respects that I have to answer to shareholders."


The compromises that Hirshberg is willing to make say a lot about where the organic business is headed. "Our kids don't have time for us to sit on our high horses and say we're not going to do this because it's not ecologically perfect," says Hirshberg. "The only way to influence the powerful forces in this industry is to become a powerful force." And he's willing to do that, even if it means playing by a new set of rules. 


Corrections and Clarifications

"The organic myth" (Cover Story, Oct. 16) featured a photo of a contract farm that has raised conventional and organic cows for customers such as Aurora Organic Dairy. Aurora says the animals featured in the photo are not part of its herd.


By Diane Brady

 BW MALL 



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Natural Flavorings Allowed in USDA Certified Org. - But, What Are They?

Food Q&A: Just what is 'natural' flavoring?
Every week, 'Today' food editor Phil Lempert responds to your questions about ingredients, cooking and shopping

By Phil Lempert
"Today" Food Editor
updated 4/7/2004 9:07:39 AM ET
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Q: Could you tell me the latest about "natural flavor," which now seems to be not just in savories, such as soups and salad dressings, but in everything from unsalted butter to organic yogurt? My understanding is that it is a sludge of beef byproduct, high in free glutamic acid, a cousin to MSG, and that it adds flavor — and perhaps a bit of a mad cow — to everything we eat.  I avoid it like the plague, but it's getting harder and harder.  Is it legal in organic products? Many thanks. 
— Mary R 
Burlington, NC
A: We've all heard of products being labeled "artificially flavored" or "naturally flavored," but I'm glad you are  curious as to what exactly "natural flavor" means, because even with all the regulations and new organic certifications it's a confusing and misleading mess!
The definition of natural flavor under the Code of Federal Regulations is: "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional" (21CFR101.22).
Certainly a mouthful!
In other words, it could include beef by-products, but not necessarily.
Any other added flavor therefore is artificial. (For the record, any monosodium glutamate, or MSG, used to flavor food must be declared on the label as such). Both artificial and natural flavors are made by "flavorists" in a laboratory by blending either "natural" chemicals or "synthetic" chemicals to create flavorings.
Gary Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, says that  the distinction between natural and artificial flavorings is based on the source of these often identical chemicals. In fact, he says, "artificial flavorings are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized.

"Another difference," says Reineccius, "is cost. The search for natural sources of chemicals often requires that a manufacturer go to great lengths to obtain a given chemical…. This natural chemical is identical to the version made in an organic chemist's laboratory, yet it is much more expensive than the synthetic alternative."
End result: We shoppers wind up paying the price for natural flavorings, and according to Reineccius, these are in fact no better in quality, nor are they safer, than their cost-effective artificial counterparts.
So what about the flavorings used in organic foods? Foods certified by the National Organic Program (NOP) must be grown and processed using organic farming methods without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock cannot be fed antibiotics or growth hormones. The term "organic" is not synonymous with "natural." The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines "natural" as "a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural." Most foods labeled natural, including its flavorings, are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes.

The NOP food labeling standards (effective October of 2002) include a National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Substances. This list has a section on allowed non-synthetic substances, some with restrictions (205.605(a)) for products labeled "organic" or "made with organic ingredients." Four categories of organic labels were approved by the USDA, based on the percentage of organic content: 100% Organic, Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, and Less than 70% Organic. Natural flavors, then, can be considered NOP compliant as "organic" when used under the 95% rule (flavorings constitute 5% or less of total ingredients and meet that meet the appropriate requirements) if their organic counterparts are not available. "Made with organic ingredients" can be used on any product with at least 70% organically produced ingredients."

According to the National List, under section 7CFR205.605(a)(9), non-agricultural, non-organic substances are allowed as ingredients that can be labeled as "organic" or "made with organic," including "flavors, non-synthetic sources only, and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative." Other non-synthetic ingredients allowed in this section include: acids such as microbiologically-produced citric acid, dairy cultures, certain enzymes and non-synthetic yeast that is not grown on petrochemical substrates and sulfite waste liquor.

So, the bottom line is that you have to read those labels carefully. "Natural" might not be so natural, and that even some organic foods might contain some of these "natural flavors." There are still many grey areas for consumers and producers alike.
Research is being done and attempts are being made to produce more organic flavorings, but the process is slow. We as consumers need to be more aware of what ingredients go into our foods and also demand that the government sticks to its responsibility to regulate these ingredients and make sure that the information is disclosed on EVERY label.
###

Phil Lempert is Food Editor of the "Today" show. You can also visit his website at www.supermarketguru.com.

Friday, January 7, 2011

USDA Organic Standards

Jennifer Lance
USDA Organic Label Standards Being Weakened by Lobbyists
16 comments July 6, 2009 in Food and Cuisine

When the USDA label was first implemented in 2002, concern was expressed that certification standards would not be as stringent as the private organic labeling programs it replaced, such as the Oregon Tilth.

Prior to 2002, organic certifiers each had their own standards that they used when certifying organic produce and products. The standards were similar, but they were each different and were owned by the certifier. In 2002 the USDA National Organic Program took effect, and the NOP Final Rule became the one standard used for certifying organic products in the US. Since that time, when you pick up a product labeled organic you know that it was certified to the same standard as all other organic products, regardless of who certified it.


Image by ilovebutter
USDA organic standards weakened by lobbyists
Now it seems those fears of a weakened national organic standard have come to fruition from lobbyists interference. The Washington Post cites an example involving infant formula.

Three years ago, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees determined that synthetic additives in organic baby formula violated federal standards and should be banned from a product carrying the federal organic label. Today the same additives, purported to boost brainpower and vision, can be found in 90 percent of organic baby formula.

Why would the USDA relax organic standards? Consumers want organic products, and the market continues to grow. It’s the “the fastest growing segment of the food industry” and is a “$23 billion-a-year business”. It appears it is now corrupted by agribusiness’ powerful lobby. The Post reports:

The market’s expansion is fueling tension over whether the federal program should be governed by a strict interpretation of “organic” or broadened to include more products by allowing trace elements of non-organic substances. The argument is not over whether the non-organics pose a health threat, but whether they weaken the integrity of the federal organic label.

A weakened organic standard only helps big business and not consumers. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board Chairman Jeff Moyer explains, “As the organic industry matures, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find a balance between the integrity of the word ‘organic’ and the desire for the industry to grow.” Consumers can’t trust the USDA Organic logo and must instead seek out reputable companies who maintain high standards and avoid synthetic additives. In general, avoiding processed foods and purchasing from local farmers is the safest way to ensure your food is truly organic.