The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that vitamins and minerals may continue to be added to organic products while the Department continues to clarify which additional nutrients may be added to organic products. Unless renewed, the current allowance for vitamins and minerals would expire October 21, 2012. The interim action allows vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and D, folic acid, or calcium, to be added to organic foods after October 21, while USDA completes the process of clarifying which additional nutrients may be added to organic products.
This fall, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a citizen advisory board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, will recommend whether additional individual nutrients should be allowed in organic products. The interim action gives the public the opportunity to provide feedback to USDA on the combined impact of these recommendations, increasing the transparency of the process. Consistent with an April 2011 NOSB recommendation, it continues the USDA organic regulations’ current reference to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) fortification policy. Once the USDA completes its evaluation of NOSB recommendations and related public comments, it will change the USDA organic regulations accordingly.
In January 2012, USDA published a proposal to allow organic foods to be fortified only with vitamins and minerals designated as “essential” by the FDA. USDA is currently reviewing public comments to that proposed rule. Under that proposal, non-“essential” nutrients would be prohibited in organic foods, including infant formula, unless they were listed separately on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List).
“More time is needed to fully evaluate public comments and the NOSB recommendations to the allowed list of nutrients, vitamins and minerals,” said Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program. “The NOSB is meeting October 15-18 in Providence, Rhode Island to finalize their recommendations on nutrients allowed in organic products. Public comments on this Interim Rule will be accepted until December 26, which will allow the NOSB to take into account any recommendations made at the October meeting.”
Per the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the NOSB must review all National List substances every five years and recommend that the USDA renew, remove, or change each listing. The advisory board is currently reviewing specific nutrients that are currently allowed in organic products but are not designated as “essential” by the FDA. Each substance must meet several criteria, including consistency with organic agricultural systems, impact on the environment and human health, and essentiality in organic production and handling. The advisory board also considers natural alternatives to each substance.
Additional information regarding this action is available here. If you have additional questions, please contact the National Organic Program at 202-720-3252. The National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture facilitates trade and ensures integrity of organic agricultural products by consistently implementing the organic standards and enforcing compliance with the regulations. - Patricia Williams, Political News