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Whatever Happened to Sound Food Science?

“While we always strive for better science related to food safety, it is increasingly important that we also strive for better, more forceful, communication strategies.”

If you want to see what the convergence of social media, government, questionable studies and a polarized society can do to torpedo food science and relevant research, you need look no further than the organic food movement. In the 1980s, it looked like the word ‘organic’ as a food descriptor would go the way of the word ‘natural,’ that is, ubiquitous, confusing and more a marketing term than a definition. A few months back, a New York Times article said that the food industry never let science get in the way of a good marketing gimmick.

A U.S. ‘solution’ came with the 1990 passage of the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA). Under OFPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would appoint a 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to serve as an advisory group to USDA. The first all-volunteer

members of the NOSB were appointed in 1992, and the defining goal of the NOSB was to promote agriculture that “enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.”[1] With that goal in mind, the NOSB and USDA established a labeling program, as well as a list of processes, ingredients and applications that would be suitable for organic foods.

In general, the aim was to favor ingredients or processes that were themselves organic. That means that certain organic pesticides, for example, are allowed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances[2] and in organic farming. It means that ingredients that add color or texture or taste to organic foods are more likely to be allowed if they are sourced organically even if there are other options for additives or ingredients designated as synthetic or nonsynthetic.

The composition of the 15 member NOSB is established in the OFPA and it provides one designated space for a scientist. The remaining slots are portioned out to include organic farmers, organic handlers, an organic retailer, those devoted to environmental protection, public interest groups and one accredited certifying agent.[3]

Read more from the source: Food Safety Magazine