Monday, July 09, 2012

Do you think that food is Organic?

The New York Times has a good article on the "oversizing" of the Organic food business. Big Food companies have discovered that you can price organic food products much higher than their conventional competitors, and they have moved deeply into organic foods. The big companies need to produce "organic" food on a bigger scale, and so compromise is a big temptation.

Now there's a board that tries to control the notion of what Organic Food is, and it maintains a list of acceptable substances, as part of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. The board is gradually being co-opted by the Big Food companies, but their control is not yet overwhelming. For example, the board voted recently on whether to allow an actual herbicide in growing some organic foods, but the herbicide was voted down.

I wanted to see the list of acceptable organic ingredients, and I found the list on this webpage. But don't rush to click the link yet; please, read on.

The remarkable thing about the list is that it is buried in verbiage on this page. It's preceded by many, many definitions and procedural matters. It's obvious that all that legalese wouldn't be needed if the organic food business was mostly the work of sincerely committed farmers and the like. But with companies trying to "push the envelope" it becomes necessary to define absolutely everything.

To see the actual list, go to that page and search for "Alginic" or "Bentonite". Both of these words are near the top of the list. The list allows: in organic food, or in the preparation or packaging thereof:
Carnauba wax
Chlorine materials (with exceptions)
Diethylaminoethanol (one specific use only)
Tetrasodium pyrophosphate (for use only in meat analog products)
Orange shellac-unbleached (not as horrible as it sounds, perhaps)
And many of your other favorite flavors.

The Times article interviews, Michael J. Potter, the founder of Eden Foods, and suggests that Edenmight be the last pretty large organic food company that is not pushing the ingredients envelope.

In any case, remember to wash your sugar cubes before you eat them! Cheers.

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