Consumers in the US rely heavily upon the UDSA organic certifcation program but few probably realize the level of complexity in standards decisions.
Consider the following, taken from the November 2011 National Organic Standards Board meeting notice, published by the Federal Register:
The NOSB voted against relisting sulfur dioxide for use in organic crop production and potassium iodide for use as an ingredient in or on processed products labeled as ‘‘organic’’ or ‘‘made with organic.’’ In addition, the NOSB voted to remove the annotation for sodium nitrate on § 205.602 and establish a complete prohibition by the 2012 Sunset date.
Several petitioned materials were also reviewed at the meeting. The NOSB recommended against listing Nickel as a micronutrient; Calcium acid pyrophosphate as a leavening agent; and Sodium acid pyrophosphate as a sequestrant on cooked and uncooked produce. The NOSB recommended to add attapulgite—used to clarify plant and animal oils—to the National List as
a non-synthetic material and recommended extending the expiration date for Tetracycline (for fire blight control in apples and pears) until October 21, 2014. In additional to their review of materials, the NOSB also passed recommendations that would: Amend the definition of ‘‘chemical change.’’
If you are a consumer trying your best to buy healthy food, how does this translate?
For starters, let’s define “sodium acid pyrophosphate.” It’s used as a buffering agent and is typically found in canned seafood to maintain stability–that can of dolphin-safe tuna probably has it as an ingredient. Sodium acid pyrophosphate is also used to keep potatoes from darkening and last but not least, as a leather cleaner.
Many argue that purchasing fresh, local food is always the best option. In any case, the complexity of chemicals in our food supply never ceases to raise questions. Consumers should be paying attention.