A non-profit consumer advocacy and research organization has filed a formal legal complaint with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) against several infant formula manufacturers it says are adding synthetic preservatives to certified organic infant formula.
The Organic Foods Production Act, passed by Congress in 1990, explicitly bans synthetic preservatives in organic food., but the Wisonsin-based Cornucopia Institute claims that a variety of producers have added more than a dozen unapproved synthetic ingredients to organic infant formula over the past five years.
“This is another blatant violation of the federal law governing organics by multi-billion dollar corporations that apparently think they can get away with anything,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy at The Cornucopia Institute.
The preservatives are beta carotene and ascorbyl palmitate, synthetics that are added to infant formula 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®.
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.
“This is not the first time that the pharmaceutical companies and agribusinesses, that manufacture infant formula, have quietly added to organic formula the same synthetic ingredients that they use in their conventional versions without first seeking the legally required approval for use in organics,” says Vallaeys.
In its complaint, Cornucopia also asked the USDA to investigate 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. QAI has also allowed its clients to add a number of other allegedly illegal synthetic ingredients to organic food and livestock feed.
“Consumers should be able to trust that the organic label represents foods that are free from unnecessary synthetic ingredients, and they rely on third-party certification by USDA-accredited certifying agents,” said co-director of the institute Mark Kastel.
Cornucopianamed the following brands of organic infant formula in its complaint to the USDA: Earth’s Best, Similac Organic, Vermont Organics, Bright Beginnings and Parent’s Choice (sold by Walmart).
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.
The only commercially available baby formula available in US stores that does not contain these synthetic preservatives is Baby’s Only Organic, manufactured by Nature’s One. Baby’s Only Organic is certified organic by OneCert.
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Cornucopia's baby formula Buyer's Guide is available here.
The institute's comprehensive report on the subject, Replacing Mother—Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory (pdf), is also available for download on the Cornucopia website.
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