U.S. Says Carrageenan can be Organic

November 2/Manila/BusinessWorld -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has kept carrageenan -- a derivative of seaweeds -- on the list of 28 "nonagricultural substances allowed as ingredients in processed products labeled as 'organic'," the new National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances showed.

The list, established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, identifies synthetic substances that are allowed and non-synthetic substances that are prohibited in organic crop and livestock production. The list is reviewed every five years.

The final USDA ruling after the 2008 review listed carrageenan among the nonsynthetics that are allowed as ingredients in processed products labeled as "organic" or "made with organic ingredients." Other nonsynthetics on the list include agar-agar, animal enzymes, mined calcium sulfate, glucono delta-lactone and tartaric acid.

Carrageenan was almost removed from the list of allowed substances after the 2008 review due to a misinterpretation of the sunset provision, said Benson U. Dakay, president of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines.

That provision automatically removes approved substances from the list every five years, unless the National Organic Standards Board has reviewed the exemption and the U.S. Agriculture Secretary has renewed an exemption or prohibition.

"Having carrageenan on that list means it can be used in organic production and handling. That means a lot because of the increasing preference for organic products in the U.S.," Dakay said.

Sale of organic food and beverages in the U.S. has grown by about 20- 24% yearly, from $1 billion in 1990 to almost $17 billion in 2006. The USDA described the organic industry as the fastest-growing sector of agriculture.  

From the November 9, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition