The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog consumer group, filed a formal legal complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) against several infant formula manufacturers that are adding two synthetic preservatives to certified organic infant formula. The same infant formulas are marketed in South Africa.
The Organic Foods Production Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1990, explicitly bans synthetic preservatives in organic food, yet manufactures are adding preservatives in the form of beta carotene and ascorbyl palmitate, to prevent the oxidation and rancidity of ingredients such as the controversial patented supplements DHA and ARA, manufactured by Martek Biosciences Corporation (Royal DSM) and marketed as Life’sDHA.
The public watchdog group has filed numerous legal complaints with the USDA, asking for removal of unapproved synthetic ingredients like the DHA algal oil and ARA fungal oils, manufactured by Martek, which was recently acquired by the Dutch conglomerate Royal DSM. According to The Cornucopia Institute, there have been more than a dozen unapproved synthetic ingredients that have been added to organic infant formula over the past five years.
When formula with Life’sDHA first came on the market, the FDA received numerous adverse reaction reports from parents and healthcare providers who noted serious gastrointestinal symptoms in babies who had previously tolerated formula without the Martek DHA and ARA oils.
Synthetic beta carotene and ascorbyl palmitate, according to the International Formula Council (the industry’s trade-lobby group), contribute no nutritional value to infant formula, but rather serve to prevent oxidation and rancidity in “powder formulations containing DHA and ARA”, misleading both consumers and the government regulatory bodies.
The federal organic standards also require that synthetics be allowed in organic foods only if they are deemed essential. The public interest watchdog group points the finger at the formula manufacturers’ organic certifying agent, Quality Assurance International (QAI). QAI is one of the largest organic certifying agents, and has come under fire in the past for certifying organic livestock operations that failed to meet the organic standards for animal welfare and outdoor access.
The point of certifying agents is that they are recognized as USDA crediting agents and they misrepresent to the public that the organic label represents foods that are free from unnecessary synthetic ingredients.
Formula products that have been named in the complaint are : Earth’s Best, Similac Organic, Vermont Organics, Bright Beginnings and Parent’s Choice. Similac Organic is produced by Abbott Laboratories, a $30 billion pharmaceutical corporation. The other brands are produced by PBM Nutritionals, owned by Perrigo, a $2 billion dollar pharmaceutical corporation.
Parents who utilize organic baby formula should carefully read the label of the brand and immediately report any adverse reaction or gastro-intestinal upset.