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Organic/Natural Regulations: Reader Follow-Up Questions

Posted: April 16, 2007

P&F magazine's March article "FAQ: Top 10 Organic Questions Answered" and P&Fnow's March 21 article on the National Organic Program's (NOP) clarification helped clear up some questions that you had regarding organic/natural and the certification process. With the continuous changes in organic regulations, it is hard to keep track of what's coming next and how it affects you. Here, Jessica Walden (Quality Assurance International technical specialist) answers some follow-up questions that P&Fnow received from you—our readers.

Reader Question 1: How is an extraction solvent like hexane regarded? We have always considered it a prohibited “synthetic solvent” and it is very limiting not to have use of it.

Walden: The NOP Rule allows the use of flavors in products making an “organic” claim (e.g., at least 95% organic ingredients) and “made with organic” (specified ingredients and food groups) claim (e.g., at least 70% organic ingredients) so long as the flavors are nonsynthetic (i.e., natural) and are not produced using synthetic solvents, artificial preservatives and synthetic carrier systems. The NOP defines nonsynthetic/natural as “a substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process.” Hexane is a hydrocarbon derived from petroleum. It is, therefore, a synthetic solvent and is not allowed in flavors used in “organic” and “made with organic” products, nor is it allowed for use in the production of “organic” and “made with organic” flavors.

Reader Question 2: Is there any allowance for process aids (like catalysts)?

Walden: I am assuming that this question pertains to processing aids used in the manufacturing of a (nonorganic) natural flavor that will be used in a certified “organic”/“made with organic” product. The answer is that as long as the flavor meets the NOP restriction, which is that flavors are nonsynthetic and are not produced using synthetic solvents, artificial preservatives and synthetic carrier systems, processing aids/catalysts are okay.1 For “organic” and “made with organic” flavors, all nonagricultural processing aids/catalysts must be listed on the NOPs National List of Allowed Substances, 205.605. Agricultural processing aids may be used so long as they are not produced from and with genetically modified organisms, irradiation or sewage sludge.