Organic Products that Contain Unapproved Additives are the Source of Controversy

Written by Max Goldberg on March 28, 2011. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

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.

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23 Comments

  1. 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.

    Written by R O'C on April 13, 2011 @ 4:40 pm
  2. Hi R O’C,

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

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 14, 2011 @ 11:39 am
  3. 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!

    Written by John Bergdoll on April 14, 2011 @ 11:40 pm
  4. 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,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 15, 2011 @ 11:46 am
  5. 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.

    Kim

    Written by Kim on April 17, 2011 @ 3:18 am
  6. 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!

    Written by Kimberly on April 17, 2011 @ 10:05 am
  7. 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,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 18, 2011 @ 12:27 am
  8. 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,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 18, 2011 @ 12:30 am
  9. What about other brands of organic milk that add DHA? Are they safe? This goes to eggs and yogurt as well.
    Thank you!

    Written by Val on November 16, 2011 @ 12:19 pm
  10. 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,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on November 17, 2011 @ 3:58 pm
  11. This article is the best I’ve ever read. I have learned from this article. I like to write about it. Thank you.

    Written by DHA on December 10, 2011 @ 1:37 am
  12. Thanks for you kind words.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 11, 2011 @ 1:57 pm
  13. 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”.

    Written by Andrea Frankel on October 29, 2012 @ 10:01 pm
  14. 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,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 31, 2012 @ 2:38 pm
  15. Notice also that the milk with the added DHA is ultra-pasteurized which is just another reason to avoid it.

    Written by Randy Rabney on December 12, 2012 @ 4:58 pm
  16. So what is a good option for kids? Regular organic milk? Is there a brand you prefer?

    Written by Kelly on February 21, 2013 @ 9:35 am
  17. Hi Kelly,

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

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on February 24, 2013 @ 9:43 am
  18. 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!

    Written by Tonia on April 25, 2014 @ 5:31 pm
  19. My pleasure, Tonia!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 27, 2014 @ 1:50 pm
  20. 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.

    Written by Steve Turcotte on August 10, 2014 @ 12:41 pm
  21. 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.

    Written by Susan on August 29, 2014 @ 10:02 am
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