The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS) administers the National Organic Program (NOP) under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (NOP), as amended (7 U.S.C. 6501-6524). The regulations implementing the NOP (7 CFR Part 205) includes the National List of synthetic substances that may be used and nonsynthetic substances that may not be used in organic production as well as synthetic, nonsynthetic nonagricultural, and nonorganic agricultural substances that may be used in organic handling. The OFPA requires review of all substances included on the list within five years of inclusion to, or renewal of continued inclusion on, the National List and, if not renewed, its allowance or prohibition on the National List is no longer in effect.
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is authorized to assist in the evaluation of substance to be included on the National List in an advisory role. The NOSB bases its recommendation on new information pertaining to a substance’s impact on human health and the environment, its necessity due to the unavailability of wholly natural substances, and its consistency with organic production and handling.
The NOSB held multiple public meetings in 2016 to consider the 17 substances with 2018 sunset dates and ultimately recommended that carrageenan be removed from the National List because they determined that alternative materials, such as gellan gum, guar gum, or xanthan gum, are available for use in organic products. USDA AMS decided to renew all 17 substances, determining for carrageenan that sufficient evidence in public comments to the NOSB that carrageenan continues to be necessary for handling agricultural products because of the unavailability of wholly natural substitutes. Carrageenan has specific uses in an array of agricultural products, and public comments indicated that potential substitutes do not adequately replicate the replicate the functions of carrageenan in a variety of food products.
Carrageenan will remain on the National List as a nonsynthetic substance allowed in or on products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic [specified ingredients or food group(s)]”.