The National Organic Standards Board within days will submit suggestions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding what regulatory changes will be needed as a result of the Harvey vs. Veneman decision, beginning a process that may ultimately require many processed organic foods to remove the USDA Organic seal from their products by June 2007.
Previously, the USDA organics rules allowed manufacturers of processed organic foods to use 38 common -- but not naturally occurring -- ingredients such as baking powder, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), pectin and xanthan gum. If these and other non-organic ingredients made up less than 5% of the product's composition, it was allowed to display the USDA Organic seal. Harvey vs. Veneman changed that.
The NOSB has been sorting out the implications of the ruling all year, spending part of its recent semiannual meeting ratifying a more explicit definition of "synthetic," and discussing parameters with USDA staff.
Many manufacturers are now scrambling to find alternative ways to make products, ranging from organic pretzels to organic yogurt.
James Riddle, chairman of the NOSB, remains upbeat, though.
"They'll still be allowed to make a prominent front-panel claim -- Made With Organic Ingredients. I have yet to see any substantive market data that indicates the 'made with' category has any less consumer appeal than the 'organic' or '100% organic' category. Both are selling strong in the market."