Artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors are never allowed in organic foods. Fewer than 40 synthetic substances can be used in organic packaged foods, and only after they have been reviewed by government and independent experts. However, the food industry knows that this word creates a halo effect, so it uses it generously on food packaging. The problem with the term “natural” is that consumers automatically associate it with 100% natural ingredients and confuse this statement with organic.
Unfortunately, natural and organic are not the same thing. Organically grown foods do not include GMOs and do not contain most pesticide treatments, including glyphosate. Any processed or multi-ingredient product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients to bear the official organic label. That means there can still be room left for up to 5% of non-organic ingredients.
However, they must be approved for use on the USDA's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Although thousands of additives can be added to conventional foods, only about 40 additives produced in agriculture and 65 synthetic and non-synthetic products from non-agricultural production are allowed in organic foods and only after receiving adequate evaluation by experts. The use of these ingredients in organic packaged foods is allowed only if there is no natural or organic alternative. In general, organic food additives are considered safer than regular additives, and there are far fewer of them.
But as you'll see below, they're not without problems. Carrageenan is a common food additive that is made from seaweed. It is a stabilizing and gelling agent that is often used as a vegan alternative to animal-based gelatin and appears in many alternatives to plant-based dairy products. While some studies have apparently established the safety of carrageenan and support its use as a food additive, there is also increasing evidence showing that carrageenan may have more worrying results than what was previously determined.
Although carrageenan is allowed and consumed in many natural foods, there are real concerns about its safety. Reported side effects of ingesting carrageenan include digestive problems, and there is some concern about its possible impact on gut health, inflammation and glucose intolerance. Interestingly, I've noticed that some plant-based brands have been gradually phasing out the use of carrageenan, largely due to consumer demand. More and more products claim that they do not contain carrageenan, which is encouraging.
Xanthan gum is a thickening agent derived from sugar fermented with bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. Xanthan gum is a common food additive used in foods such as packaged baked goods, ice cream, soups, sauces, salad dressings, gluten-free foods, and low-fat products. Even though xanthan gum is derived from fermentation, it's still considered a synthetic substance because it was created in a laboratory and isn't naturally produced. Because of its synthetic nature, some consumers claim that it does not belong to foods that are perceived as “natural”.
But using it may not be all bad. In fact, it seems to offer some potential health benefits. For example, some human and animal studies indicate that xanthan gum may help lower high blood sugar levels, improve bowel regularity, help people with dry mouth, and may have anti-tumor properties. On the other hand, some evidence suggests that xanthan gum may lower blood sugar too much, cause allergic reactions in some people and cause unwanted digestive symptoms, especially when consumed in large doses.
An additional consideration is the source of sugar used in the fermentation process. The sugar used for the production of xanthan gum can come from wheat, corn, soy or dairy products, which do not need to be organic and can therefore be genetically modified. Unfortunately, there are currently no variants of certified organic xanthan gum, but some brands may not be verified by the Project. Guar gum is another gel-like thickening agent and comes from guar beans.
As a food additive, it is often found in pudding, yogurt, sauces, soups, breakfast cereals, and ice cream. Some studies show that small amounts of guar gum may offer some health benefits, since they act as prebiotics, improve blood sugar in people with diabetes, lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and help with weight loss. However, there are also some health and environmental concerns about guar gum. Guar seeds are also associated with hydraulic hydrofracturing, a process of supplying fossil fuels that is very harmful to the environment.
The gelatinous consistency of guar gum has been used to make this process more efficient, making some of the other thickeners on this list seem a little more appealing (but they're still not ideal ingredients). Ascorbic acid is a common food additive that is the synthetic form of vitamin C. Used as an acidity regulator and antioxidant in packaged foods, ascorbic acid helps prevent bacterial growth and improves shelf life. It can also be added for nutritional purposes or used in small quantities to prevent discoloration.
Ascorbic acid is considered to be largely non-toxic and is soluble in water, meaning that it is not stored in the body. While excessive exposure can cause tooth enamel erosion, cause diarrhea and promote kidney stones, the levels needed to achieve these side effects far exceed those normally used as food additives. In general, vitamin C, whether added synthetically as ascorbic acid or obtained naturally from food, can act as an antioxidant in the body, boost immunity, help increase iron absorption and can even improve skin health. Agar (or agar agar agar) is a gel-like texturizer derived from algae with properties and uses similar to those of carrageenan.
Agar, commonly found in Asian foods, is another plant-based alternative to gelatin. Agar is generally non-toxic and a maximum amount of daily intake has not been established. But it does have the maximum amounts set by the FDA for use in different types of food, which at least is reassuring. Some of the above additives were mentioned as gelatin replacements, so what exactly is gelatin? This is a highly purified animal protein derived from the collagen of pigs, fish and cows.
In other words, it's a mix of proteins and peptides found in the connective tissues of animals and it's not vegan (as you might have guessed). Gelatin is used as a thickener and stabilizing agent in foods such as puddings, sauces, broths, soups and candies. Its manufacture is incredibly cheap because it is a by-product of the meat industry and almost always comes from animals raised in factories. There are also grass-fed and fish-derived versions, but they are not widely used.
Because gelatin is made almost entirely of amino acids and proteins, it seems to have a low risk of side effects. And it even has some supposed health benefits, such as improving bone and joint health, hair thickness, and skin conditions. However, there are cleaner, plant-based ways to get these benefits. And there are many other options for thickening and stabilizing foods that don't contribute to the ethical and environmental disaster that factory farms represent.
In the U.S. UU. And Europe, more than 2500 flavoring substances of chemical origin are used, and some of the most common are diacetyl, monosodium glutamate and castoreum. In general, natural flavors are an inexpensive way to make food taste better and keep you coming back for more.
They have no nutritional value and I'm sorry to say that they may or may not be harmful, since there isn't always much transparency about their origin. Free edition for 4-day special events The Food Revolution Network team has moved all of our products to a single platform. You can sign in with the same email you used for older products (before 2011) at the link above. Products can be called organic if it is certified that they grew in soil to which no prohibited substances were applied during the three years prior to harvest.
Familiarizing themselves with the USDA organic label and understanding its claims allows consumers to make informed choices about the food they buy. Farmers who grow organic products and meat do not use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds, or prevent livestock diseases. For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, such as enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods. Most foods were allowed because no other substitute from an organic supplier was widely available or for economic reasons.
You can see all the other ingredients that are allowed in the actual production of organic products here, don't go crazy looking at that list either. As I follow your blog, I know that just because something is organic doesn't mean it's super healthy. For example, instead of using chemical herbicides, organic farmers can perform more sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay. And while the food additives used in organic foods are much more limited, there is still the possibility that the ingredients pose some risk to consumers.
Regulations prohibit organically processed foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors or flavors and require that their ingredients be organic, with some minor exceptions. Since the article was a bit out of date, I thought it would be wise to easily make available the entire list of ingredients that are currently legally allowed in organic foods. .