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Update from the Fall 2016 NOSB Webinar

Once every five years, ingredients allowed in certified organic products are reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to determine whether they should be “relisted,” or continue to be permitted in organic products. Carrageenan, an ingredient naturally derived from seaweed and used in nut milks, ice cream, deli meats, and many other organic products, is currently undergoing its five-year review. Last week, the NOSB heard comments from the public about carrageenan. During a webinar, numerous citizens, scientists, and companies that make organic products presented a compelling case for the continued use of this ingredient in organic foods.

Dennis Seisun, founder of IMR International, spoke to the importance of relying on scientific evidence when determining whether carrageenan should be allowed in organic foods. He also highlighted how crucial carrageenan is in the lives of tens of thousands of seaweed farmers in developing economies.

Preston Brawn, a product formulation consultant, described how carrageenan is an essential, valuable ingredient in organic food. Brawn urged the NOSB to allow carrageenan to remain available in order to meet consumer expectations and encourage the overall growth of the organic industry.

Jim Chmura, senior director of product research and development at ABC/Harvest Hill Beverage, the company that makes Juicy Juice, noted carrageenan has been “an invaluable and irreplaceable ingredient in many product applications.”

Nur Ahyani, of World Wildlife Fund International, described how important carrageenan is to seaweed farmers in Indonesia, where nearly 500,000 small-scale farmers in coastal areas earn a living by cultivating seaweed used to produce the naturally derived ingredient.

Kevin Lawrence, founder of Power Crunch, stated that carrageenan could not be replaced without causing his product to separate.

David McCoy, managing director of Dairy Insights, presented data from a new double-blind study that found most dairy food and beverage professionals agree carrageenan is essential to certain food formulations.

Jeannie Delwiche, sensory scientist at FMC Corporation, talked about how the sustainable farming methods used to harvest carrageenan are important to consumers of organic products.

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Kirin Basra of Premier Nutrition, makers of PowerBar and Joint Juice, outlined the challenges of formulating products without the use of carrageenan. “Carrageenan is a vital ingredient,” she said. “We haven’t found an acceptable alternative that can replace carrageenan’s properties or functionality.”

Myra Weiner, owner and president of TOXpertise, shared results from scientific animal studies on carrageenan that found “no gastrointestinal inflammation when carrageenan was ingested in food.”

Adam Schrententhaler, an independent product development consultant, spoke to the essentiality of carrageenan: “Carrageenan is an essential component of both dairy and non-dairy beverages. While combinations of alternative ingredients can provide similar properties, they do not offer the same functionality.”

While carrageenan has undergone review and been relisted in the past, this year there are detractors who argue against allowing the ingredient in organic products. However, members of the NOSB committee who participated in last week’s webinar were presented with overwhelmingly positive support from consumers, scientists, and others committed to upholding the integrity of food science and organic standards.</p>

The NOSB will wrap up its review of carrageenan during its fall meeting, November 16–18, 2016, in St. Louis, and a vote on whether to relist is scheduled for late this year. For more information on the NOSB and its procedures, visit www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/nosb.

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