The Year in Food 2007

A Stretch of the Definition

Last May the USDA gave 38 ingredients entry into what some would like to keep an exclusive club: the order of the organic seal. The USDA would allow these 38 ingredients—even if they themselves are not organic, such as conventionally farmed hops grown with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers—to be used in certified organic products. Tens of thousands of emails and letters poured in opposing the department’s actions, and groups like the Organic Consumers Association drew up a petition detailing why some of these ingredients (casings from factory farmed animals’ intestines, for instance) are a far cry from seal-worthy. The approval appears to have been largely in response to pressure from pork and food processors (casings) and Anheuser-Busch (hops)—although the beer-maker has subsequently pledged to use only organic hops in its organic line. Whether an organic seal will make more people want to drink beer from Anheuser-Busch remains to be seen. —Eric Slatkin