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

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

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 […]

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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.


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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  • pua la`a says:

    Do you recommend MitoLIfe DHA supplement? Please, let me know. Thank you.

  • Joanna says:

    Hello there,
    I feed my son baby’s only lactose relief which has now a label that says it contains Dha and ara. I came across your website and did a double take because I thought I was giving him the best I could. I looked on their website and it says it’s naturally sourced from eggs. What’s your take on it? Thanks! Joanna

  • Spirit says:

    If I couldn’t breastfeed I would use donor milk instead of formula.

    But I had been taking an organic DHA supplement for its brain and skin benefits before I read this. Has anyone found a great safe source of DHA for taking while nursing or giving baby?

    • Jessica says:

      The Honest Company Organic Premium Formula. No added DHA/ARA. They have Baby DHA you can buy separately, “a liquid supplement sourced from pure, premium fish oil that also contains Vitamins D3 and E”. Only store I have found to carry it is Target. My son has been doing great on it, wish I would have tried it sooner.

      • Melissa says:

        Unfortunately honest formula still contains some questionable ingredients. There are other formulas that are so great but aren’t sold in the United States. I use Holle and Hipp made in Europe and my son has no issues whatsoever. It’s very sad that The US is so behind health wise. Do the research and you will find we are slowly poisoning our children with our low food standards.

    • Karen says:

      I suggest checking out for reviews of omega 3 supplements. I don’t have any children, but why not ditch the store bought baby food and make your own with no artificial crap? Do people still do that or am I crazy? Lol

  • Farah says:

    are you saying all dha and omega 3 supplements are bad for children? Or is it just bad in this milk (which I use)? If so what do you recommend instead off?

  • Melanie says:

    Am I in the clear with Earth’s Best Organic Quinoa Brown Rice Cereal product?

  • Leah says:

    So, if these organic formulas/baby rice cereals are not safe, what is the better option? Is it really better to buy non-organic baby formulas & cereals than to buy these organic ones?

  • I am surprised to continuously read about DHA, EPA and ARA added to Formula, Milk Powder, Milk and many other food products and never reading any facts about these ¨pseudo ¨Omegas¨. The subject is very complex, it would take long time and writting space to explain it well. Some important points can be resumed here in order to point to another direction which could make understanding easier and avoid wasting time with what is not at all relevant in this discussion.
    Omegas are in fact Fatty Acids, Omega Three is the Essential Alpha Linolenic Fatty Acid, Omega Six is the Essential Alpha Linoleic Fatty Acid and Omega 9 is the Oleic Fatty Acid ( Not essential).

    Fatty Acids are Hydrogen and Carbon Molecules, these substances are extremely fragile, they are Atomic substances, invisible even with powerfull microscope, these Fatty Acids are so sensitive that Oxygen, Light and Heat above 102 Fahrenheit will cause a -¨molecular rotation of its fragments turning the Cis-Cis Bio Active Isomeric Configuration into Trans,- Bio Inactive – substances, in this situation oxydation is also trigered rendering its qualities completely useless but not only that when these Trans Fatty Acids become part of the metabolism it causes havoc, since Fatty Acids have such large range of influence and nutritional importance in so many vital Bio Chemical metabolic activities, whoever is supplementing diet with any form of Omegas available in the products that add it to take advantage of the trend, take my word for it, none can give you what Omegas are supposed to deliver.

    Omegas derived from Fish or Algae oils are absolutely inactive. During processing of the fish from the time it is caught until turned into oil it is exposed to all the three worse conditions – light-heat and oxygen, both in processing as well as when turning it into powder through ¨Sprary Drying¨.

    DHA, EPA, ARA are in a more advanced stage of the Ketogenesis sequence. Adult Human Beings need from 11 up to 23 grams of Essential Fatty Acids daily,( one spoonfull) todlers and children need from 2 up to 7 grams.

    These must come from plant oil seeds, there is no short cut in this process as the big Fish Industry is systematically trying to make people believe. Fatty Acids will become Hormones, (Prostaglandins), also Blod Cell Membranes, it cannot be manipulated at any pharmaceutical level, The oils must be kept refrigerated all the time.

  • Angela says:

    I was wondering what brands you would suggest as a suppliment for my 9 year old son. I’ve been looking for an organic Omega 3 with DHA for him but have seen many different opinions of the safety of the DHA. I read a lot of the comments above but went quickly because I seen mostly questions on baby food. Please help me.
    Thank you,

  • Christen says:

    I’m trying to understand if DHA supplements derived from algae like Nordic Naturals are good or bad? Can you offer any input? I’ve been considering adding this to our Baby’s Only Formula that does not already contain DHA or ARA…

  • ceycey says:

    Is there any ither alternative for happybellies organic brown rice cereal with DHA?
    How about Gerber organic rice cereal? Earths best cereal?

    Thank you!

  • Katie says:

    Hi Max,
    Can you tell me what brands of milk and/or dairy products are best? My daughter is 13 months old. I’ve been trying to find a great local fresh source of raw milk for her. Should I just try to pursue the fresh local raw milk? I’m getting flack from my family about it….it don’t know why it’s so hard to understand….eating organic, raw milk, even not heating food up in plastic in the microwave. But basically want to know what brand of organic milk is best if I can’t find local raw milk. Thanks, I love your info!

  • J Musgrove says:

    Thanks for your efforts in policing what’s in our food supply and, specifically, challenging additives used in foods labeled “organic.” I’ve recently discovered a different additive in organic lactose free low fat milks (may be in all low fat milks but I haven’t checked all of them) that concerns me…..Vitamin A Palmitate. The WHO and others express concern about palmitate as it relates to cardiovascular disease but it’s still being used by both Horizon and Organic Valley. Do you have any information about the use of Vitamin A Palmitate?

  • 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

  • LaBella says:

    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.

  • Jennifer says:

    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

  • laura says:

    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?

  • Greta says:

    Thanks for this information. What about dha omega 3 organic eggs.?

  • Carly Krumins says:

    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.

  • Amber says:

    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”

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

    • Erika says:

      Hello Amber,
      I have tried on 2 separate occasions to give my son the Horizon milk with DHA and within minutes he vomits. He drinks with Horizon milk fine that doesn’t have the DHA in it. Any other mothers going thru this? Or any ideas of why that is? Thank you, Erika

  • Dalia says:

    Thank you for sharing, I have a baby and use earths best infant formula!
    What should I use instead?

  • Ally says:

    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.

  • Megan says:

    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 🙁

  • Amanda says:

    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.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

  • Beth says:

    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.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

    • Tim says:

      Re infant formula, I agree w you Beth. If you’re going to scream “fire”, then have some semblance of solution. I’m guessing this gentleman doesn’t, or did not have kids when this was posted.

  • Marie says:

    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?

  • Raven says:

    Please reply here instead of above because I can’t find any other way to enable reply notification.

  • Raven says:

    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?

  • Dena says:

    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?

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Dena,

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

      Live well,

  • maria says:

    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.

  • Tara Still says:

    Can you tell me if Comforts for Baby (Kroger Brand) Formula is using Martek’s?

  • Lina says:

    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.

  • Barbara says:

    What bout ALA ingriediens ? I have it on all the natur’s path boxes ….

  • Natasha says:

    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!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

  • Francine says:

    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

  • David says:


    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.


    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

  • 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

    You can find a detailed FAQ about DHA available on our website at: 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

    Happy New Year from your team at HAPPYFAMILY!

    Most sincerely,

    Shazi Visram
    Founder and CEO, HAPPYFAMILY

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

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

  • Jen says:

    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.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

  • Charlotte says:

    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.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      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,

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