Organic rules tightening on lecithin

Organic food manufacturers that use non-GMO, non-organic lecithin in organic products may find it difficult to continue doing so. Earlier this year, officials with the US National Organic Program (NOP) said they would “hold certifiers’ feet to the fire” over the use of non-organic ingredients (see The Organic & Non-GMO Report, April 2006). In addition, the National Organic Standards Board has recommended removing bleached lecithin from the NOP’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

“Things are tightening”
Lynn Clarkson, president, Clarkson Grain Company, Inc., says organic certifiers and inspectors have become stricter about the use of non-organic ingredients as a result of the Harvey lawsuit, which tried to overturn the use of such ingredients in organic foods. “Things are tightening,” he says. “Certifiers are asking companies why they aren’t using organic lecithin.”

NOP rules allow the use of 5% non-organic ingredients if sufficient quantities of organic alternatives are not available.

But Clarkson says food manufacturers use the 5% allowance to avoid using organic ingredients, such as lecithin. “Some companies have been abusive saying organic lecithin isn’t available or it doesn’t work,” he says.

While there are many suppliers of non-GMO soy lecithin, Clarkson Grain is the only supplier of organic. Clarkson says his company has a surplus supply of organic soy lecithin. “We have enough to handle the needs we see right now. If business comes to us, we will expand capacity,” he says.

Organic lecithin is produced using a mechanical process without the use of chemical solvents used to make conventional and non-GMO soy lecithin.

Organic lecithin costs much more than non-GMO lecithin, but Clarkson says the cost is not more than other organic minor ingredients.

Demand for organic lecithin is increasing. Clarkson Grain sells organic lecithin to companies making organic cereals, cosmetics, power bars, breads, cookies, and chocolate.

“There is a trend of organic chocolate companies moving toward organic lecithin,” says Clarkson.

An informal survey of organic chocolate manufacturers found that some have switched to organic, while others use non-GMO lecithin. Endangered Species Chocolate recently switched to organic lecithin this past May. Sjaaks Organic Chocolates uses non-GMO lecithin in some products and organic in others. Tom Neuhaus, Sweet Earth Chocolates, says his company uses only organic lecithin. A spokeswoman with Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate says her company uses organic lecithin.

However, some organic chocolate manufacturers continue to use conventional or non-GMO soy lecithin.

Part of the problem, says Clarkson, is that organic lecithin has only been available for the last three years, and many companies may not know it is available. “Information takes awhile to get out there,” he says.

Removing bleached lecithin from National List
The NOP currently allows the use of bleached and unbleached lecithin in organic products, but the National Organic Standards Board has recommended that bleached lecithin be removed from the NOP’s National List. “I think that makes sense, because you can get bleached lecithin that is organic,” says Clarkson.

However, Amy Nankivil, export manager, Northland Organic Foods, doesn’t think bleached and unbleached lecithin will be removed from the National List. “Until organic counterparts of comparative quality and functionality to non-GMO lecithin become commercially available, I do not see how bleached and unbleached lecithin can be taken off the National List,” she says.
© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report 2006. (October 2006).