Megnut

The New York Times has more information on the nonorganic/organic issue with Nonorganic Exceptions Ruffle Enthusiasts of Organic Food. Here's an interesting bit: "John Foraker, chief executive of Annie’s Homegrown, argued that nonorganic annatto was a crucial ingredient in the company’s macaroni and cheese. 'Making orange colored macaroni and cheese is an important element of our offering. Without annatto, our macaroni-and-cheese products would be white.'” So? So your organic mac-n-cheese is white. And your non-organic mac-n-cheese can be day-glo orange like your competitors. I don't buy any of the excuses the industry is trotting out. Not enough organic hops? Grow more organic hops, don't change the rules to allow organic beer to be brewed with nonorganic hops.

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What is it with Annie's lately, they seem to be working against that which the worked so hard to build. Maybe we can't have orange mac & cheese without this ingredient he mentions, but why do we need it in the first place?

Used to be a fan of Annie's, now all they are doing is pointing out that it really is not such a good thing to be eating even if it is "mostly organic".

Interesting things going here...

Here's an idea: Don't eat macaroni and cheese. If there were an organic Twinkie, would you eat it?

...and if they insist on having a color, there's always turmeric...

How Bizarro World is it that Amheuser Busch uses non-organic hops for its "Organic Wild Hop Lager?" I mean, both adjectives, organic and wild, seem to be describing the hop; afterall, what's a "wild lager?" And if the hops aren't organic, surely they're not wild, as they must be cultivated in some manner to become non-organic. I'd think this was humerous if I hadn't almost bought this beer a couple weeks ago, thinking it was chock-full of organic, wild hops. What a bunch of clowns.
To be honest, I don't really care if my beer is organic (I'd have bigger problems if the chemicals sprayed on the hops in my beer were harming me), but I do care if I pay the organic tax for non-organic products.

Write your congressperson about this! If you care about organic standards, let them know and ask them to put pressure on the USDA. I wrote mine and it only took a minute or two using the form on his website.

Trust AB who farm the majority of their own hops(which they use quite sparingly anyway) to want to wriggle out of the true meaning of organic. Since actual hop resin/humuglobin (sp?) makes up less than a small percentage of their product, they seem to believe that it does not have to be organic. Perhaps they should leave the niche products to the niche producers. Samuel Smiths and Schneider & Sohns both make excellent organic beers, far better than the tripe(sorry to insult tripe) the BMC clowns would try to foist upon us.

Annatto is as natural of a food coloring as turmeric (it is derived from a tropical plant). I suspect there just isn't a lot of organic cultivation of the shrub from which it is derived.

But as Meg points out, if supply is a problem, we need to find a way to increase the supply, not redefine the meaning of the word. While the organic label and my own ethics don't always align (I would rather have non-organic happy-pig pork than organic quasi-confinement pork), accurate and appropriate labeling is what allows consumers to make informed choices.

And shouldn't labeling serve not the producer but the consumer?

There needs to be an independent body established to certify organic foods, we can't trust the government. Too many bloody special interest groups and deep pocketed corporations tilting the scales. Food is politics. Forget Hillary - Alice Waters for President!

Meg,

There is a whole lot of confusion around this issue, Here are the facts vis a vis the NY Times piece and the letter I wrote to the FDA on the issue...

Most importantly: Annie's is in no way seeking to undermine the organic standards. In fact, the organic standards are being tightened in this new process, and we completely support that! The USDA previously offered a blanket exemption for non-organic ingredients, like annatto, to be used in Certified Organic products when the ingredient is not commercially available in organic form. Recent changes in the organic guidelines (due to the Harvey lawsuit) now require manufacturers like us to get specific USDA pre-approval for any trace ingredient which is natural, but not organic, in a product that is Certified Organic at the 95% level. Approval for these trace ingredients will only be granted when there is no viable organic alternative for the ingredient.

We have been making organic mac & cheese colored with annatto since 1998, and have been completely in compliance with the letter, and spirit of the organic National Organic Program guidelines. The product in question, Organic Shells and Real Aged Cheddar, is Certified Organic at the 95% level (it’s actually 99.4% organic), and always has been. The only non-organic ingredient is the natural color derived from annatto seed, a plant used by native cultures throughout history, and widely used to add color to natural and organic products. My letter to the USDA requested that annatto be added to the list of specifically pre-approved ingredients so that our product can continue to be legally labeled “Certified Organic” at the 95% level, as it has been since introduction to market.

If we could find organic annatto, in the quantity, quality, and efficacy we need, we would use it, even if it were more expensive. We have been searching trying to qualify a source for a long time. I am sure we will eventually succeed. However, while we continue that effort, we need to ensure our ability to remain within the law; that is why I wrote the letter to the USDA, to ensure that annatto was not overlooked in the process.

You may believe, and there are certainly others that agree, that there is no place for colored Mac & cheese. Why not just offer white? Well, we do offer white and it is very popular. However, there are millions of kids in America that have been convinced by decades of advertising from a large company that makes macaroni and cheese that shall remain nameless, that Mac and cheese should be orange/yellow. Overcoming that is difficult. In fact, we received thousands of letters from consumers asking us for an orange mac & cheese product. So, we bridge to give these kids and their parents a path to organic that they will accept, and adopt into their everyday life. The more consumers we bring into the organic tent, the better off we and the planet will be.

Annie’s has long been a leader in converting consumers and the mainstream food companies toward more organic products. For example, I am very proud that there are now >16,000 acres of precious farmland that are now growing wheat for Annie’s organically, rather than through the unsustainable practices of conventional farming. This is just one example. We are part of the solution, not the problem.

There is a detailed FAQ on our website for additional information about Annie's position on this subject. The link is:

http://www.annies.com/faqs/annatto_organic_standards.htm

Thanks Meg.

Sorry about the multiple posts, my web browser was acting up...JF

No problem, I deleted the extras. Thanks for your clarifications about the annatto issue.

Lakefront Brewery is working with the Michael Fields Institute and other organic farmers in Wisconsin to grow organic hops for their production and for the benefit of other organic beer producers. Lakefront Brewery is taking a longer term view of this situation. To say that that organic hops are not available for the styles of brew is hogwash. Anheuser Busch will continue to spend money on stupid things like cheesy lawyers, bad advertising and focus groups instead of using their resources to make a decent beer.

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