Organic supplements: victory for the industry

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Agriculture

Dietary supplements made following the National Organics Program's
requirements for organic foods may now be certified as organic and
bear the USDA seal, according to a memorandum sent out by the USDA
this week to its accredited certifying agents.

The decision to include non-food products in the NOP comes a week after AHPA president Michael McGuffin addressed the National Organic Standards Board for the second time this year, saying that "there is no principled argument to exclude dietary supplements from the NOP scope"​.

The memo from Barbara C Robinson, deputy administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service's transport and management programs, said: "There are agricultural products, including personal care products, that, by virtue of their organic agricultural product content, may meet the NOP standards and be labeled as '100 percent organic', 'organic', or 'made with organic' pursuant to NOP regulations."

The memorandum does not specifically mention dietary supplements, but Robinson told that it is not directed at specific products, but rather at agricultural products that meet the current NOP standards.

"If a dietary supplement is comprised of agricultural ingredients, and is produced according to the NOP standards, and contains no ingredients that are not on the national list of approved synthetics, and if that product is certified by an accredited USDA certifying agent, it may be labeled according to its organic content as appropriate,"​ she said.

Although AHPA has battled long and hard to clear up the NOP's contradictory stance on organics over the past five years, McGuffin said that the association cannot take full credit for USDA's apparent turnaround.

It is likely that the lawsuit brought in June by a personal care company, Dr Bronner's Magic Soaps and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), in response to plans to drop organic cosmetics and personal care products from the program, was a major factor in the decision.

The OCA and the Californian company's complaint centered on the fact that the USDA took the decision without going through the proper rule-making and notification procedures that allow for public comment.

The USDA's memo was sent out on Tuesday - the eve of the deadline for the NOP to respond to the complaint.

It admitted that "[NOP] certification may only be suspended or revoked after notice and opportunity for hearing"​.

The new policy on cosmetics and personal care was due to come into effect on October 21 2005, unless injunctive relief was granted.

"This is a major victory for organic consumers who rely on NOP certification to ensure that their personal care and other non-food consumable products like pet foods contain real organic ingredients free from unnecessary synthetic ingredients,"​ said Ronnie Cummins, OCA founder and national director.

The OCA has said that the complaint is likely to be withdrawn following settlement talks over the next 30 days.

Related topics: Regulation

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