Warning: Think Twice About Buying Any Organic Food that Contains DHA or ARA

Written by Max Goldberg on December 12, 2011. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

horizon-organic-dha

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), an unapproved additive in certain organic foods and organic milk.

Companies were adding DHA and ARA (Arachidonic acid) into their products because they are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, respectively, and also provide a unique marketing angle. (A majority of the organic food companies are sourcing their DHA and ARA from Martek Bioscienes Corporation.)

This is all fine and good except for the fact that Martek’s DHA and ARA are synthetic and something antithetic to everything that certified organic stands for.

At the recent USDA/National Organic Standards Board meeting in Savannah, Georgia, the issue of DHA and ARA was discussed and voted on. Needless to say, the decision was a big loss for organic consumers.

The National Organic Standards Board decided that DHA and ARA would be allowed in certified organic products but that no hexane could be used in the processing of these additives. Hexane is a neurotoxin, a by-product of gasoline in petroleum and is considered a hazardous air pollutant by the EPA.

There are two problems here.

1) Even though hexane is no longer permitted, the ruling did not specify that other “synthetic solvents”, which have the potential to be more dangerous, could not be used in the processing of DHA or ARA.

2) The Organic Consumers Association is reporting that Martek’s DHA and ARA still do not meet the standards of certified organic. Why?

A detailed review of Martek’s patents reveal that the company is:

*** Using genetic-modification in the manufacturing process for DHA –> something not allowed under USDA certified organic regulations.

*** Using genetically-modified corn in the manufacturing process for DHA –> something not allowed under USDA certified organic regulations.

It is an understatement to say that this situation is appalling.

WHAT TO DO

Without a question, I am avoiding all certified organic products that use added DHA or ARA.

As I mentioned in my previous post about this subject, The Cornucopia Institute provided a list of some products that contain Martek’s DHA or ARA. They 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

If you know anyone who has infants or babies, please forward this post to them. It is ESSENTIAL that they are not feeding their children anything that contains questionable ingredients.

Unfortunately in this case, the National Organic Standards Board has been influenced by big corporations and is not doing enough to protect organic consumers.

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42 Comments

  1. Thanks for the heads up. I appreciate the excellent resource your blog is, especially as I have children and do NOT want them consuming these things.

    Written by Charlotte on December 12, 2011 @ 11:39 am
  2. Hi Charlotte,

    My pleasure and I am glad to know that the information I am providing is useful to you and your family.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 12, 2011 @ 11:52 am
  3. Things like this make people question the real benefits of organic products. I don’t know why any decent organic certified producer would risk its reputation for a few shady ingredients they try to squeeze in through the back door. But at least there are people paying attention. Thanks.

    Written by Jen on December 28, 2011 @ 7:43 am
  4. Hi Jen,

    There is no question that it does put a damper on organics.

    It is the classic debate of “corporate organic” and whether values get compromised once a company gets large. At places like Stonyfield, they do not. At other large companies, they do.

    Thanks for supporting organic food.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 28, 2011 @ 3:18 pm
  5. I just received the following from HappyFamily, makers of HappyBellies:

    Dear Concerned Consumer,

    Hello from HAPPYFAMILY, and thank you for inquiring about our use of DHA
    in our HAPPYBELLIES whole grain cereal.

    We feel that you as an ethical consumer are being misled and our good name
    is being abused by an outside party. It is very difficult as this
    company’s founder and a parent myself to see these unfounded allegations
    regarding GMOs, so I wanted to respond to you personally.

    First and foremost, every decision we make is based on socially
    responsible ideals that business can positively impact our world,
    especially with our ingredient sourcing. It has been a personal goal of
    mine since day one to support sustainable agriculture. Our DHA is sourced
    from the safest and most sustainable source: algae. It does not contain
    harmful mercury found in fish oils, and most importantly, no genetic
    modification is used in this process. None whatsoever. This was recently
    confirmed by the U.S. National Organic Standards Board. If this DHA had
    ever involved genetic modification, we never would have included it in our
    products.

    You can find a detailed FAQ about DHA available on our website at:
    http://www.happybabyfood.com/what-is-dha. If you would like more
    scientific information about the process, we are happy to provide it.

    Our company was founded on the mission of doing the absolute best for our
    children by giving them access to optimally formulated organic nutrition.
    We do not use GMOs in any of our products, including the HAPPYBELLIES
    cereal. It says this clearly on the label. Our own children have grown up
    on HAPPYBELLIES, which we believe is the most nutritious cereal in the
    marketplace with DHA for brain and eye development and pre and probiotics
    for digestive wellness as well as organic oats, amaranth, quinoa and brown
    rice. We were the first baby food company to create a probiotic cereal,
    and the first organic baby food company to use DHA, which is a building
    block for our children’s growing brains and eyes during a time they need
    it most.

    I hope this email sheds more light on this topic and clarifies our
    position – we too believe GMOs are not meant for our babies’ growing
    bodies. We believe this so strongly that we have made it our life’s work
    to create a truly HAPPY brand to ensure parents have the safest and
    healthiest options for their children.

    If you still have any questions or concerns, we are more than happy to
    speak with you further. Please send any additional comments to
    parents@happyfamilybrands.com.

    Happy New Year from your team at HAPPYFAMILY!

    Most sincerely,

    Shazi Visram
    Founder and CEO, HAPPYFAMILY

    HAPPYFAMILY
    139 Fulton St. Ste. 907
    New York, NY 10038
    O: (212) 374-2779
    F: (212) 602-0104

    Written by Marcello Aurelio Lanfranchi on December 30, 2011 @ 3:18 pm
  6. Hi Marcello,

    I stand by my post and Shazi’s letter does not comfort me in the least or change my opinion at all.

    The reality is this. The two major watchdogs in the organic food industry, Organic Consumer Association and The Cornucopia Institute, were both appalled and shocked that the USDA/NOSB would allow DHA in its current form.

    Furthermore, as per the links that I provide in my post, they believe the process that Martek employs to make DHA uses GMOs.

    Would I feed any family member of mine a certified organic product that contains added DHA? Never.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 1, 2012 @ 11:45 am
  7. Max,

    Thanks for the information. As a concerned parent I applaud the effort to get the word out on deceptive practices. I wish, however, that your article provided some recommended alternatives. I’m particularly interested in the infant formula category. Alternatives would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    David

    Written by David on August 29, 2012 @ 5:14 pm
  8. Hi David,

    I appreciate the feedback. Milk alternatives – the organic milk that doesn’t have DHA/ARA, there are plenty of them out there – Stonyfield, Organic Valley, other local organic milk producers. Infant formula is an area that I will need to research further.

    Thanks for your input.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 31, 2012 @ 10:41 am
  9. Hi Max – any info on powdered organic baby formula that is safe for babies to consume? The “Baby’s Only brand supposedly has brown rice syrup as an ingredient, and that has been implicated in arsenic levels in the formula. Any new research or recommendations?

    Thank you very much – Francine

    Written by Francine on September 14, 2012 @ 2:06 am
  10. Max,
    In your opinion, what do you think is the BEST option for our children? My 6 month old is starting rice cereal for the first time.. I have to admit in browsing the isles, I found myself being pulled in by the marketing of the added choline in HappyBellies and bought the brown rice cereal with added DHA. Would you advice using organics (without added DHA), non-organic baby foods, or making them ourselves? I also know they have been finding arsenic in rice and other organics, but I guess that’s a whole other story.. Thanks!

    Written by Natasha on October 15, 2012 @ 6:55 pm
  11. Hi Natasha,

    I would never feed my child a Happy Bellies product that contains added DHA. Never. This is a company that I do not trust at all.

    Even though added DHA is an approved ingredient by the National Organic Standards Board, it is nonetheless an incredibly controversial ingredient and many people believe that genetic modification is used in the process.

    With such controversy, why would anyone take the risk of feeding it to their infants? I wouldn’t.

    If I had a child, I would feed him/her nothing but organic and make as much as the food as I could.

    Buying packaged organic baby foods is ok if you don’t have time or are on the run. But it should not be the norm. Home cooked meals from whole, real foods is the ideal situation. Again, a lot comes down to time, money, and accessibility.

    I hope this helps.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 17, 2012 @ 8:38 pm
  12. What bout ALA ingriediens ? I have it on all the natur’s path boxes ….

    Written by Barbara on June 4, 2013 @ 2:11 pm
  13. As far as know, the DHA and ARA are the problematic ones.

    Written by Max Goldberg on June 8, 2013 @ 5:03 pm
  14. This is laughable. I feed my seven month old happy bellies (dha and ara) with no issues. Even organic foods have gmo in them because there’s cross contamination. I ebf my son too. He’s healthy, happy and full of life.

    To think that we’re save from gmo by buying organic is naive.

    Written by Lina on September 15, 2013 @ 2:36 pm
  15. Can you tell me if Comforts for Baby (Kroger Brand) Formula is using Martek’s?

    Written by Tara Still on October 12, 2013 @ 6:55 pm
  16. It seems the GMO super powers really want to focus the bulk of their energy on getting these bad products into children. Look at how many of these deceptive “organic” products are directed at infants.

    Written by maria on December 22, 2013 @ 6:58 pm
  17. I have been using Baby’s Only Dairy organic formula and I have been adding the Baby’s Only DHA and ARA packet supplement. Should I stop adding the extra supplement?

    Written by Dena on January 6, 2014 @ 9:59 pm
  18. […] unreviewed synthetic ingredients. I wrote about this DHA/ARA controversy several months ago and my post included the specific products that contain this very questionable additive. I would never, ever […]

    Pingback by cat dati pe mancare si pe iesile in oras? - Page 4 on January 7, 2014 @ 12:52 am
  19. Hi Dena,

    I can’t tell you what to do but I would NEVER feed my children those DHA/ARA packets. Never.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 8, 2014 @ 12:11 am
  20. My baby is with DCFS, and they refuse to feed him healthy foods. Which brand of “rice cereal” is better: Happy Bellies or Earth’s Best? Note the Cornucopia Institute report: Hexane is bad but brown rice also contains arsenic. What EXACTLY is both Happy Bellies and Earth’s Best using?

    Written by Raven on February 26, 2014 @ 9:18 pm
  21. Please reply here instead of above because I can’t find any other way to enable reply notification.

    Written by Raven on February 26, 2014 @ 9:19 pm
  22. I appreciate you telling all about what we should stay away from and not use…but you basically said that we can’t use any organic formula. And you didn’t offer a solution. Baby’s Only isn’t for infants under a year old. So…what are we left with? Is regular formula better?

    Written by Marie on March 3, 2014 @ 9:30 pm
  23. What is ESSENTIAL is that people like you STOP contributing to the fear and guilt that already overwhelmed parents feel by trying to make everything perfect for their child. You have no idea how overwhelming it is to be a new parent. Communicating messages like you did here just perpetuates the stress that parents feel.

    Written by Beth on May 27, 2014 @ 1:59 pm
  24. Hi Beth,

    My job here is to tell the truth about what is in these food products. If this is something that you cannot handle, then my blog obviously isn’t for you.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 27, 2014 @ 4:15 pm
  25. Hi there,
    My son was born with gastrsoschesis (intestines on the outside of his body) and after several surgeries we came home. The most difficult part of his condition now that we are home is his digestion. Breastmilk is best, but he will not nurse, so when my milk ran out I was left with no choice but to feed him formula. I researched and researched, there are so many kinds of formula and so many awful ingredients. Baby’s only was the safest choice- no hexane, etc… and they have made it so the arsenic level is undetectable (different processing method) and my son is doing very well. I am saddened by our FDA. They approve things that are known to be harmful. Its hard to trust any food manufacturer.

    Written by Amanda on August 18, 2014 @ 1:25 pm
  26. Hi Amanda,

    I am happy to hear your son is doing well, and I share your pain about the government. It is very hard to swallow that the FDA puts corporate interests ahead of the health of its citizens.

    All the best,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 25, 2014 @ 12:27 pm
  27. […] Warning: Be Wary of Organic Food that Contains DHA or ARA – Beware of organic food that contains DHA or ARA. The organic standards board ruled that organic food can contain DHA or ARA but with unsatisfactory conditions. […]

    Pingback by Organic Valley Dha « Recipes for Health on September 11, 2014 @ 8:46 am
  28. Was the Hexane an ingredient in the Horizon Milk until recently? Was it just removed or Have I been drinking gas byproduct for two years? Not buying this anymore :(

    Written by Megan on September 11, 2014 @ 12:26 pm
  29. Hi Max

    thank you so much for the info. I have always bought the Horizon DHA Omega 3 organic milk but after reading this post that will definitely change. However, I also buy Organic Valley’s Organic 2% reduced fat omega 3 milk but on the box it also says DHA EPA. Is this also one of the products that we should avoid? in your previous comments you mentioned that the products from Organic Valley are ok but I just wanted to double check with you.

    thank you for your help.

    Written by Ally on September 11, 2014 @ 2:04 pm
  30. Thank you for sharing, I have a baby and use earths best infant formula!
    What should I use instead?

    Written by Dalia on September 11, 2014 @ 9:17 pm
  31. […] Warning: Be Wary of Organic Food that Contains DHA or ARA – Beware of organic food that contains DHA or ARA. The organic standards board ruled that organic food can contain DHA or ARA but with unsatisfactory conditions…. […]

    Pingback by Organic Baby Food With Dha  | About Food and Diet on September 16, 2014 @ 6:18 am
  32. This article was written back in 2011! Is it possible that things have changed since than? See my response below from Horizon regarding synthetic use og DHA in thier milk…

    “Horizon Organic Hi Amber. Unfortunately there is some misinformation out there regarding our products. Millions of consumers have chosen to purchase our DHA Omega-3 organic milk over the past years because of the added benefits DHA Omega-3s are thought to deliver. We are glad the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) recognized this strong consumer demand for organic foods fortified with plant-based DHA sources. This decision reinforces that our source of plant-based DHA Omega-3 is a safe and effective non-synthetic additive, as well as non-GMO and extracted without the use of hexane.(the type that Horizon uses). For those consumers who choose to purchase organic milk without DHA, we will continue to offer a variety of organic dairy choices, and remain committed to supporting and growing these product lines as well. If you have any other questions, feel free to send us a personal message and we’d be happy to answer them.
    -Aubrey at Horizon”

    Written by Amber on September 16, 2014 @ 5:45 pm
  33. This is why I feel we’re better off buying local products (such as milk and veg from farmer’s markets/CSA) rather than certified organic products which many small producers cannot afford the certification for.

    Written by Carly Krumins on September 19, 2014 @ 12:13 am
  34. Thanks for this information. What about dha omega 3 organic eggs.?

    Written by Greta on September 19, 2014 @ 9:34 am
  35. babys only can be used for babies under 1 yr. however, it constipated my baby : (. I guess we sticking to earths best organic despite the hexane,It seems as if everything has something in it we need to watch out for. isn’t organic formula better than non organic?

    Written by laura on September 20, 2014 @ 3:48 pm
  36. Hi Greta,

    It depends if they are adding this specific version of DHA to the feed.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 6, 2014 @ 12:06 pm
  37. Hi Amber,

    Horizon’s response does not change my point of view on this one iota. I do not agree with them at all.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 6, 2014 @ 12:08 pm
  38. Max, please help.
    It’s 2014- could you help us parents w a product update?
    We need an organic formula that does not constipate.
    I am a mother of 3 month twin girls (preemies) struggling to both breast and bottle feed, and unfortunately my supply is low and the breast milk is more of the daily mealtime supplement rather than main meal. Despite my best efforts (pump every three hours, lactation consultant latching and feeding work,etc) My girls rely on formula to survive. We started on similac organic in hospital bc organic was very important to me but my girls were only moving bowels on this once a week and had extreme gas, plus there was a lot of added sugar in this organic / non toxic formula.
    Our pediatrician suggested enfamil ar (not organic) for spit up, that we would see a marked difference and amazingly we have. Incredibly the girls are producing healthy bowel movements every other day and no longer screaming/crying w reflux pain.
    But I hate that it’s not organic.
    There is no time for us to make our own formula – once we introduce solids in a few months we can try to freshly purée but reality is now there is just no way.
    Need a healthy organic formula w/o synthetic additives that won’t bind!
    This is a call for help for this type of product- I know there are thousands of families out there that need this product. Has it arrived? Who makes it, Where can we find?
    Please help!
    Thank you,
    Jennifer S., NY

    Written by Jennifer on October 15, 2014 @ 3:35 am
  39. Hi Jennifer,

    The organic infant formula situation is a disaster. Here are two suggestions.

    1) , Baby’s Only Organic is developed and marketed by Nature’s One. Nature’s One markets Baby’s Only Organic formula as a “toddler formula” rather than an infant formula (according to the company, this is done to encourage breastfeeding until age 1).
    2) A video by Weston A. Price on how to make your own. http://www.westonaprice.org/beginner-videos/baby-formula-video-by-sarah-pope-2/

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 23, 2014 @ 3:09 pm
  40. […] Warning: Be Wary of Organic Food that Contains DHA or ARA – Beware of organic food that contains DHA or ARA. The organic standards board ruled that organic food can contain DHA or ARA but with unsatisfactory conditions…. […]

    Pingback by Organic Baby Food With Dha « Recipes for Health on November 7, 2014 @ 9:42 am
  41. Hello, what about Beech Nut? My baby girl eats that and Earth’s Best. Is all of Earth’s Best questionable?

    Thanks so much for this! This really makes me nervous. I have a drawer full of Earth’s Best baby food.

    Written by LaBella on November 9, 2014 @ 1:26 pm
  42. Omega 3 and Omega 6 EPA DHA is destroyed 100% when raw milk is pasteurized. That is why I never eat pasteurized dairy products. I buy raw goats milk at the farmers market and ferment it into kefir. I also buy raw milk cheese at the farmers market. Goats milk is much easier to digest than cows milk, but when the goats are not lactating December to February I buy raw organic cows milk and ferment it into kefir. Inspection for raw milk is far stricter than pasteurized milk.

    Most important what allegedly passes for organic animal protein is from cows, sheep, lambs and goats fed soy and corn. These animals are ruminants with four stomachs and should only eat GRASS. Livestock cannot digest corn and soy even if it is organic!

    Grass fed pastured livestock makes milk and eggs, chicken full of omega 3 and 6 so no need to fortify it with dubious supplementation.

    I saw stonyfield has supplemented some of their yogurts with DHA and EPA. Stonyfield was sold to a huge junk food manufacturer

    Written by Colleen Whalen on November 29, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

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