Shooting for the list

by Jeff Gelski
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Getting non-synthetic, or natural, colors on the government’s organic-compliant list has become a goal for suppliers in 2007. The issue, to be decided this year, will affect the ability of food and beverage processors to create products that qualify for a seal from the National Organic Program (N.O.P.) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some non-synthetic colors qualify as organic while others do not. Non-synthetic colors that are not organic still might qualify as organic compliant. A finished product qualifies for the N.O.P.’s organic seal if at least 95% of the product is organic and the remaining non-agricultural (non-organic) substances, including colors, appear on a national list of allowed substances.

The N.O.P. will announce what colors are on the national list this spring and the ruling will go into effect in October, said Susan Brunjes, senior chemist for Sensient Colors, Inc., St. Louis. Color is typically used at relatively low levels, such as under 0.1%, in finished beverages, she added.

The N.O.P. will add colors to the organic-compliant list based on how limited the organic supply is of each specific color, said Margaret A. Lawson, vice-president of science and innovation for D.D. Williamson, Louisville, Ky. The more difficult it is for a processor to find the color in organic form, the more likely it is the N.O.P. will allow the processor to use a non-synthetic form of that color, making it organic-compliant.

D.D. Williamson and colorMaker, Inc., Anaheim, Calif., have worked together in drafting petitions for 15 non-synthetic colors, requesting the N.O.P. add them to the organiccompliant list. They petitioned for colors whose raw materials tend to be grown in places where few, if any, organic certifiers are present. Therefore, few, if any, organic supplies exist for the colors.

"We’re talking about regions of the world that are not very developed and somewhat isolated," Ms. Lawson said. She gave different regions of Africa and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil as examples.

Several manufacturers of annatto, a popular color in yogurt, are petitioning to add that color to the national organic-compliant list, said Stefan Hake, chief executive officer of GNT USA Inc., Tarrytown, N.Y.

GNT is determining where it wants to position itself in organiccompliant colors, Mr. Hake said. A vertically integrated company, GNT grows its own fruits and vegetables as raw materials for non-synthetic colors. Before they commercially may offer a color, the company needs to figure out how long it will take to grow the raw materials used in those colors, Mr. Hake said.

Customer requests for colors that may be used in organic product are often received at Food Ingredient Solutions, L.L.C., Teterboro, N.J., said Jeff Greaves, company president.

"That’s where the growth is," he said. "Everybody wants organic. They want it to say organic, and they want it to be as good as the regular product."

Color notes and achievements

• Sethness Products Co., Lincolnwood, Ill., recently launched OC114, its second certified liquid organic caramel color. The OC114 is more than 40% stronger than commercially available organic liquid caramel colors and is milder in taste, according to Sethness Products Co.

The Iowa Organic Certification Program certified OC114. Packages contain the U.S.D.A. organic seal.

• Sensient offers a new line of allergen-free natural colors that eliminates allergens like fish gelatin and soy lecithin. The demand for allergen-free colors has increased since the Food and Drug Administration imposed allergen-labeling regulations in 2006, according to Sensient.

• Food Ingredient Solutions wants to add more green to the non-synthetic color market. The company has petitioned the F.D.A. to approve the use of copper chlorophyllin for all food and beverage applications.

"We see a lot of opportunity in things like guacamole, green tea, mint ice cream, kiwi-flavored beverages and green peppercorn dressing," Mr. Greaves said.

Mr. Hake added, "Chlorophyll is only permitted in dry beverage applications. If it’s safe in dry beverages, it ought to be safe in yogurt."

• D.D. Williamson received the first annual Kosher Compliance Award from the Louisville Vaad Hakashruth for its commitment and adherence to kosher guidelines and standards. Foods are kosher when they meet all criteria that Jewish law applies to food.

"To consumers, the kosher symbol has become synonymous with the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ recognized for a high degree of cleanliness and quality control," said Avrohom Litvin, kosher administrator of the Louisville Vaad Hakashruth.

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