Saturday, May 11, 2013

What Does A Leading Maker Of Carrageenan Say About Its Use In Organics?

Marinalg International, the organization supporting sustainable seaweed farming and the seaweed based hydrocolloid industry, agrees with the Proposed Rule by the National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to renew the approval of carrageenan, a common food stabilizer, as an ingredient in American organic foods. The rule would codify a recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board regarding carrageenan. “Seaweed is farmed on six continents and is critical to the economic growth and stability of emerging countries”
The basis for the NOP’s Proposed Rule to continue carrageenan use without restriction is the result of a comprehensive review of science providing strong evidence concluding that the processing and production of carrageenan from red seaweed is non-synthetic. The production of carrageenan is carefully controlled under alkaline conditions to avoid degradation or chemical changes during isolation and purification. This minimal process relies on water, heat and lye to produce the major types of naturally-occurring carrageenan that differ in structure and food-processing characteristics with a broad range of functionality that enables solutions to pressing food issues including fat and sugar reduction, expansion of protein availability and reduction in food waste through shelf life extension.
Common to other ingredients, the approval came as part of a standard five-year ingredient sunset review by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board, established by the Organic Food Products Act of 1990 to examine ingredients allowable in foods labeled as ‘organic’. The decision to relist carrageenan as a non-synthetic ingredient for use in organic food reaffirms carrageenan as a safe food ingredient.
Carrageenan has been approved for use in food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization and many other regulatory authorities throughout the world. Those organizations have examined decades of science devoted to this ingredient, relying on scientific evidence that carrageenan, when ingested with food, poses no health risk to humans.

These same organizations, particularly the FDA, have rejected the conclusions of some recent experiments with isolated cells that allege adverse health effects and rely instead on well-established science that more closely mimics the way human beings consume carrageenan in foods as a natural stabilizer, gelling agent and emulsifier.
William B. Matakas, president of Marinalg, said, “We are gratified that after thorough reviews by the FDA and the USDA, carrageenan continues to be recognized as a safe and important ingredient in organic foods in the United States. Carrageenan is consumed by millions of families throughout the world each and every day and has been for a very long time. The experience of that continued use, coupled with careful science, is clear evidence that carrageenan is worthy of its place in organic milk, ice cream and other food products.”
Carrageenan is a natural soluble fiber product of red seaweed and a natural ingredient that has been used in cooking for hundreds of years throughout the world.

It is currently harvested by seaweed farmers primarily in Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines, supporting more than 30,000 farming families in practices that are models of sustainable aquaculture. Seaweed production does not require fresh water, arable land or fertilizer and increasing its production does not create competition for food production any where in the world.
“Seaweed is farmed on six continents and is critical to the economic growth and stability of emerging countries,” said Matakas. “Seaweed farmers want for their families the same things all of us want – economically viable opportunities to ensure the health, safety and education of their children. Seaweed farming is not only environmentally sound and sustainable, it is transforming lives and livelihoods in hundreds of coastal communities.”
Carrageenan, in addition to being used as a food stabilizer, has widespread applications in pharmaceuticals, as well as personal care and dietary products. The use of carrageenan enables the export of countless products by preserving their texture, structure and stability.
Marinalg International is a global association supporting the interests of seaweed farmers and the seaweed-based hydrocolloids industry. Marinalg’s primary efforts include the delivery of sound science and technical expertise related to the safety and efficacy in the production and use of hydrocolloids from seaweed farms to family tables. Marinalg represents the regulatory interests of the seaweed-processing industry before various international bodies such as Codex Alimentarius, and national regulatory authorities including the European Food Safety Authority, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. - MarinAlg, Business Week

Is The USDA Trying To Make It Easier For Farmers To Obtain Certification?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program’s 2012 list of certified organic operations  reveals there are now nearly 25,000 certified organic operations worldwide. Those operations represent more than 100 countries and show a significant increase over the past years. Efforts are ongoing to see those numbers continue to increase.

“One of USDA’s strategic goals is to increase the number of certified organic operations in the U.S. to 20,655 by 2015, a 25% increase from the 2009 baseline of 16,564,” Sam Jones-Ellard, USDA public affairs specialist, said in an e-mail.

As part of this goal, in 2012, the USDA began its Organic Literacy Initiative, an effort to train USDA staff on how the USDA supports organic agriculture. The initiative also includes a toolkit, titled “Is Organic an Option for Me,” which is designed to help growers decide whether organic farming is an option for them.
Another aspect of the USDA’s efforts to encourage organic farming is the Sound and Sensible initiative, which is designed to streamline the organic certification process, according to Jones-Ellard.

 “The Sound and Sensible initiative, which streamlines the organic certification process while maintaining high standards, ensuring compliance, and protecting organic integrity, is another important step in support of this strategic goal,” Jones-Ellard said.

The project will focus on helping growers achieve organic certification, which could in turn increase the number of certified operations in the U.S. “The goal of this initiative is to help ensure that organic certification is affordable, accessible and attainable for all operations interested in exploring the organic option,” Jones-Ellard said in an e-mail. 

As part of the initiative, the National Organic Program attempted to clarify the information that USDA agents can provide to clients without being considered “consultants” by publishing new instructions for certifying inspectors, according to the April issue of Organic Integrity Quarterly, the organic program’s newsletter.
“This instruction, which will be released this spring, will outline what certifiers and inspectors can and can’t do to assist organic operations,” Jones-Ellard said.

Sound and Sensible is also set to provide an updated list of certification instructions, which will be released as they are completed. Training sessions for program auditors are scheduled for the end of April, which will teach the new Sound and Sensible principles to help increase consistency, according the newsletter. Future projects of the initiative will strive to remove barriers small businesses can encounter when striving to achieve organic certification. The “Removing Barriers” project already has considered feedback from the Accredited Certifiers Association, among others. - Melissa Shipman, The Packer