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USDA may relax standards for organic foods
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2007
Posted: June 15th, 2007

Many beer drinkers may not know that Anheuser-Busch has the organic blessing from federal regulators even though Wild Hop Lager uses hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. The [USDA] is considering a list of 38 nonorganic ingredients that will be permitted in organic foods. Because of the broad uses of these ingredients as colorings and flavorings, for example almost any type of manufactured organic food could be affected, including cereal, sausage, bread and beer. Organic food advocates have fought to block approval of some or all of the proposed ingredients, saying consumers would be misled. "This proposal is blatant catering to powerful industry players who want the benefits of labeling their products 'USDA organic' without doing the work to source organic materials," said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Assn. of Finland, Minn., a nonprofit group that boasts 850,000 members. With big companies entering what was formerly a mom-and-pop industry, new questions have arisen about what exactly goes into organic food. Many nonorganic ingredients, including hops, are already being used in organic products, thanks to a USDA interpretation of the Organic Foods Protection Act of 1990. In addition to hops, the list includes 19 food colorings, two starches, casings for sausages and hot dogs, fish oil, chipotle chili pepper, gelatin and a host of obscure ingredients (one, for instance, is a "bulking agent" and sweetener with the tongue-twisting name of fructooligosaccharides). Under the agency's proposal, as much as 5% of a food product could be made with these ingredients and still get the "USDA organic" seal.

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