Tag Archives: Hexane

New Administration at USDA Steps Up to End Organic Corruption

Industry Watchdog / Washington Post Investigation Brings Down Old Leadership


Washington
, DC: In a strong departure from Bush-era policy, the USDA’s National Organic Program released a memo today banning synthetic “accessory nutrients” — ending a scandal that brought down its former organic leadership.

At issue were some of the nation’s leading manufacturers of infant formula that had been illegally adding synthetic forms of omega-3 and omega-6 oils to their organic products after a sweetheart deal between a powerful industry lobbyist and Dr. Barbara Robinson, the former head of the USDA’s organic program—exposed by a 2009 investigative report in the Washington Post.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), by The Cornucopia Institute and shared with the Washington Post, indicated that Robinson, after meeting with Jay Friedman, a lawyer and lobbyist with the powerful Washington law firm of Covington Burling, rescinded a ruling made by USDA career civil servants who found the inclusion of synthetic oils in organic infant formula to be illegal.

“Justice prevailed in this matter but it took a change in the administration in Washington to make this happen,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute.

Problems and improprieties at the National Organic Program, during the Bush administration, were also profiled in a recently released audit from the USDA’s Inspector General’s office.

Cornucopia, an organic industry watchdog, first investigated the use of these “novel” nutritional oils, derived from soil fungus and algae, in infant formula, because they are extracted using a neurotoxic chemical, hexane, which is explicitly banned in organic production.  “We couldn’t understand why the USDA was allowing this to happen,” Kastel said.

Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act, as part of the 1990 farm bill, charging the USDA with defending the interests of ethical industry participants and protecting organic consumers against fraud.

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Which Veggie Burgers Were Made With a Neurotoxin?

By Kiera Butler Mon Apr. 12, 2010 2:30 AM PDT

UPDATE: Veggie burger rumors are flying! Some readers and other news organizations have alleged that the study I wrote about on Monday was funded by the pro-meat, anti-soy group the Weston A. Price Foundation. But this morning, I spoke with Cornucopia Institute director Mark Kastel, who said that the Weston A. Price Foundation did not contribute any funding to the “Behind the Bean” (pdf) study. More here.

UPDATE: Readers’ questions about veggie burgers and hexane answered here.

This is about the time of year when I start keeping packages of veggie burgers in the freezer, just in case of an impromptu barbecue. In the past, I haven’t had much fake meat brand loyalty: I’ve found that once I smother my hunk of textured vegetable protein in barbeque sauce, all soy patties are pretty much created equal. But after reading a recent investigation by the Cornucopia Institute, I’m going to be a lot more picky: The food and agriculture nonprofit found that most non-organic veggie burgers currently on the market are made with the chemical hexane, an EPA-registered air pollutant and neurotoxin.

In order to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers, manufacturers of soy-based fake meat like to make their products have as little fat as possible. The cheapest way to do this is by submerging soybeans in a bath of hexane to separate the oil from the protein. Says Cornucopia Institute senior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys, “If a non-organic product contains a soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein, you can be pretty sure it was made using soy beans that were made with hexane.”

If you’ve heard about hexane before, it was likely in the context of gasoline—the air pollutant is also a byproduct of gas refining. But in 2007, grain processors were responsible for two-thirds of our national hexane emissions. Hexane is hazardous in the factory, too: Workers who have been exposed to it have developed both skin and nervous system disorders. Troubling, then, that the FDA does not monitor or regulate hexane residue in foods. More worrisome still: According to the report,

“Nearly every major ingredient in conventional soy-based infant formula is hexane extracted.”

The Cornucopia Institute found that a number of popular veggie burgers were made with hexane. The list (pdf, page 37, and below) is longer than you might think:

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