Organic Products that Contain Unapproved Additives are the Source of Controversy

When I was at the Expo West trade show recently, I came across Horizon Organic Milk with DHA Omega-3 and was impressed at first glance. I thought to myself that this looks like a pretty interesting dairy product.

Yet several days after returning back to NYC and just as I was about to write a post about this organic milk, I received an email from The Cornucopia Institute, a watchdog for the organic industry.

The Cornucopia Institute has condemned the USDA for allowing products containing unapproved synthetic additives (DHA Omega-3, as one of them) to be labeled “organic” for an indefinite grace period.

Furthermore, The Cornucopia Institute has filed legal complaints against infant formula manufacturers and Dean Foods, manufacturer of Horizon dairy products, for adding unapproved additives: Martek Biosciences Corporation’s omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (DHA/ARA), derived chemically from fermented algae and fungus, to foods with the organic label.

Shockingly and inexplicably, the USDA has declared these additives illegal and yet will do nothing to enforce its own rules.

Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst with The Cornucopia Institute, says that “Federal law clearly states that synthetic additives must be approved by the USDA, through a formal petition process, assuring their safety before they can legally be added to foods with the organic label. Martek’s Crypthecodinium cohnii and Schizochytrium oils (sources of DHA) and Mortierella alpina oil (a source of ARA) have never been approved, and the USDA has once again caved to industry lobbyists.”

A lawsuit against the USDA is something that The Cornucopia Institute is strongly considering. If it does move forward with one, it would follow in the footsteps of The Center for Food Safety, who filed a lawsuit against the USDA over the recent decision to allow genetically-engineered alfalfa.

As an organic food lover, hearing about how the USDA continues to undermine the integrity of the National Organic Program is incredibly disturbing.

I want to leave you with a few things:

1) If you have not seen the interview I did recently with Andrew Kimbrell, the Executive Director of The Center for Food Safety, please watch it. Please do so.

Andrew calls “Obama worse than Bush” when it comes to protecting organic. It is an eye-opening video and you will get a good idea of what is really going on at the USDA.

2) Be very careful about every product that you are feeding to your family. Read every single ingredient and question everything.

While the National Organic Program is something that I support, it is by no means perfect, things do slip through the cracks and many powerful forces are at work trying to compromise it.

3) According to The Cornucopia Institute, other organic food products for babies and adults are also using Martek’s s unapproved synthetic additives. These companies and products are:

For children and adults

Wegman’s Organic Yogurt (Fruit on the Bottom Super Yogurt)
Horizon Organic Milk
Stremicks Heritage Foods Organic Milk
ZenSoy Soy on the Go

Baby Food (select products contain Martek’s DHA)

Happy Bellies
Tasty Baby Organic Infant Cereal

Infant Formula (all organic infant formula products contain Martek’s DHA, with the exception of Baby’s Only Organic Toddler Formula)

Bright Beginnings Organic
Earth’s Best Organic
Parent’s Choice Organic
Similac Organic
Vermont Organics

Please forward this blog post to anyone you know who is feeding their children organic baby food. It may contain these synthetic additives that are causing serious health problems to young children.


  • Bnay says:

    All books and sites say that DHA is needed for toddlers for their brain development. That is why we were planning to get Target’s Simply Balanced organic milk with DHA.

    Now when I see your site, you say, not to use such milk. This is totally causing confusion.

    Do you recommend buying organic milk which say, they have DHA or just organic milk without DHA ?


  • Peter says:

    Sometime don’t believe what you read. If this was bad, than why the company is still in business? I haven’t heard anyone gotten sick over it.

  • Rebecca says:

    The positive I’ve found with this milk is it does not have the fish flavour most milks with natural fish based DHA Omega 3 have. It is also the only milk I can drink without severe stomach pain. I am lactose intolerant but lactate added to milk or taken as pills causes worse bloating than the milk alone. When my doctor said I was malnourished and wasn’t absorbing vitamins or nutrients properly she gave me a list of vitamins and foods to add to my diet. One was DHA Omega 3. The pills made me taste and burp a fishy flavour and my breath was terrible. I found milk with DHA Omega 3 that was not the Horizon brand. It was disgusting and the fishy smell and taste was still a problem. Finally my brother told me about Horizon’s whole milk with DHA Omega 3. I started drinking and craving it often and I felt better after drinking it. A month after I started drinking a half gallon every 2 days my malnutrition and vitamin problems were gone. I would say it was the other vitamins and diet changes except for 5 months I had been on the diet change and vitamins with no improvement. I am very sick and spend much of my time in my hospital bed on IV medication. I feel like I have energy to work on crafts and fellowship with friends and family since I started drinking Horizon DHA Omega 3 whole milk. I feel like the great benefit I have had may be lost if it is forced off the shelves for a silly reason such as using a synthesized form of DHA which was developed to reduce the negative side effects of DHA Omega 3 from fish while still being produced in as natural a way as possible. Everyone is responsible to look into the foods the consume and don’t have to purchase items they disagree with or don’t like how they are produced. Please don’t make me suffer more because the label is not how you wish it to be or the FDA is allowing something that is necessary for many people to have a grace period. I am normally not confrontational but it really has changed my quality of life and after reading your article and many comments others have posted I am afraid it might be taken from me. Thank you for being open to others perspectives.

    • JR says:

      You may also want to try taking Probiotics 2-3x per day on an empty stomach. I am lactose intolerant and also had your symptoms, which disappeared with a week of being on high-quality Probiotics, although you need to stay on them for months. Once you go off them, if the symptoms reappear, just go back on them.

      Allergy Research Group makes excellent Probiotics; I take Lactobacillus — the L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. salivarius combination, with great results. There are many other good ones as well you can research.

      Careful ordering online (like from Amazon) only because they are temperature-sensitive and you’ll need to pay extra for a refrigerated pack. Once they reach room temps they are no longer effective. Good luck. JR

    • Jeremy says:

      No they can make the same milk not labeled as USDA Organic, so that is up to Horizon to do . I would send them your concern and ask them to make the milk in a new labeled carton. You would then get the same exact thing, but people who want true USDA certified Organic products will get them.

  • Je recommande la lecture de cet article

  • Joe B says:

    I made cappuccinos this morning with the Horizon Whole Milk w/ DHA Omega-3. It frothed up nice and creamy with a beautiful micro-foam. My wife and I each smiled, took a sip and looked questioningly at each other. I questioningly said, “Fish?”. She agreed. YUK! Fish in my cappuccino?! She added a spoon of raw sugar and it began to bubble up like a bad chemical reaction. Any idea what that’s all about? Pretty scary stuff. I’ll be returning it. Have written to Horizon about it. But, I complained about this over 6 months ago and thought something would have changed by now. NOT.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Joe,

      I have no idea what that is about but I avoid all products with added DHA Omega-3. Better safe than sorry.

      Live well,

  • Kevin says:

    How about Costco Organic milk ?

  • Susan says:

    We have been purchasing this milk for a while but after reading this I am switching to our local stores organic milk. Also, our most recent purchase of this milk at Sam’s (early-mid August) found it tasting bad. When I called Horizon (Whiteway Foods) they explained there was a process change and it was causing ingredients to oxidize! They had since corrected the issue. Why wouldn’t they recall it? It tasted awful whereas before it was fine. They refunded our money but it was another supporting factor to switch.

  • Steve Turcotte says:

    I bought this not noticing the added dha, it seriously tastes like someone ground up a fish. It’s so bad I will be returning it. Buyer beware unless you like fish flavored milk.

  • Tonia says:

    This was a total bummer, hearing about this. I was finally able to sell my sons father on the thought of organic milk because of the added DHA factor. I have found another brand of milk with added DHA, (other than Horizon) tastes too fishy, and that just doesn’t go together with cereal. Thank you for the article and update!

  • Kelly says:

    So what is a good option for kids? Regular organic milk? Is there a brand you prefer?

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Kelly,

      See if there is a local, organic milk producer near where you live. Maybe one with glass bottles.

      Live well,

  • Randy Rabney says:

    Notice also that the milk with the added DHA is ultra-pasteurized which is just another reason to avoid it.

  • Andrea Frankel says:

    I’m confused. You say the Martek DHA is derived from fermented algae and fungus, which sounds pretty natural to me. Even if it is chemically modified, I don’t see why it falls under the category of “synthetic additives”.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Andrea,

      It is the way that it is processed.

      Also, is a $12 billion dollar company who is not involved with organics going to care about whether something is processed in accordance to organic standards? I don’t think so.

      Live well,

  • DHA says:

    This article is the best I’ve ever read. I have learned from this article. I like to write about it. Thank you.

  • Val says:

    What about other brands of organic milk that add DHA? Are they safe? This goes to eggs and yogurt as well.
    Thank you!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Val,

      While there may be other organic milk brands that use DHA, I am not sure which ones they are.

      Overall, I would be very wary of any organic product that claims to have added DHA.

      Live well,

  • Kimberly says:

    It is enough to drive a person crazy! It’s hard to just get groceries these days isn’t it? Between rising prices and crazy additives, I don’t even want to buy anything. Grr. We’re blessed to have this one area covered for our family now. Off to go milk my goat!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Kimberly,

      I agree. There is so much out there to know and much of it is not too pleasant. That is why it is so essential that we always do a lot of research.

      BTW, I am a big goat’s milk fan!

      Live well,

  • Kim says:

    We just switched to an amazing local, organic raw milk and I couldn’t be happier. Except that it’s $10/gallon and I use it to make cheese and butter, too. But peace of mind is everything.

    Fantastic, and yet disturbing, article. Thanks so much.


    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Kim,

      Lots of people are switching to raw milk. If it is giving you peace of mind, that is what is important.

      Thanks for the words about my post. Much appreciated.

      Live well,

  • I drink Rice Milk for a couple of years now and I’m glad I did. Thanks for the article, Max. Great job as always!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your feedback and glad that you are happy with your decision. As you know, it pays to really educate ourselves about the food we put into our bodies.

      Live well,

  • R O'C says:

    I am disheartened. I have been happily purchasing Horizon’s milk with the DHA additive thinking this was great. I think I will be switching brands until this is resolved.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi R O’C,

      Yes, it is disheartening. When you see the organic seal, you expect a certain level of purity.

      Live well,

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