USDA amends National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic foods

U.S – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a final rule in the Federal Register, amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic foods.

The National List stems from the Organic Foods Production Act as a tool for managing the substances used in organic production over time. On the whole, natural substances are permitted in organics whereas synthetic substances are prohibited.

The National List identifies the limited exceptions to these general rules and also nonagricultural and nonorganic agricultural substances (ingredients) that may be used in organic handling.

The final rule which will come to effect on March 30, 2022 addresses recommendations from previous NOSB public meetings to remove one substance currently allowed in organic crop production (Vitamin B1) and one in organic livestock production (procaine). It also seeks to ban 14 nonorganic ingredients, including eight nonorganic colors, that are currently allowed in organic handling.

The rule will also renew the permits for Sucrose octanoate esters for use in organic crops, and livestock production and Oxytocin for use in organic livestock production, as a response to public opinions. It maintains the current regulatory structure with regard to these two substances upon publication for up to five years.

Changes to the National List require a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendation and USDA rulemaking, a process that provides multiple opportunities for public comment. NOSB is an advisory board that makes recommendations to the United States Secretary of Agriculture on organic food and products.

The latest amendments include substances scheduled to sunset in 2022, based on NOSB recommendations and public input, according to Food Safety News.

Stakeholders are expected to comply with removal of vitamin B1 and procaine from the National List by March 15, 2023. All the other amendments that eliminate substances from the National List should come into force by  March 15, 2024.

Products in the market subsequent to the compliance date that are labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” may contain substances removed in this final rule if manufactured prior to the compliance date.

In June 2021, the USDA  published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the National List based on public input and the April 2019 NOSB recommendations. The final rule provided additional options for organic farms and businesses, by adding three substances to the list of substances allowed for organic production and handling.

It permitted the use of oxalic acid as a pesticide in apiculture, nonorganic pullulan for use in dietary supplements with “made with organic” claims (capsules and tablets) and collagen gel, a casing for organic products like sausages.

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