OTA Flavor Task Force: Use of Organic and Natural Flavors in NOP Certified Products - Organic Trade Association
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OTA Flavor Task Force: Use of Organic and Natural Flavors in NOP Certified Products

April 10th, 2011

Ms. Patricia Atkins
National Organic Standards Board
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 2646-So, Ag Stop 0268
Washington, DC 20250-0268

Docket: AMS-NOP-11-0014

RE: OTA Flavor Task Force: Use of Organic and Natural Flavors in NOP Certified Products (Download pdf)

Dear Ms. Atkins:

Thanks for the opportunity to submit OTA Flavor Task Force Comments and Recommendation for consideration at the April 2011 National Organic Standards Board Meeting (NOSB).

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members, and its mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy (

The OTA Flavor Task Force Recommendation is not in response to an agenda item for the Spring 2011 meeting. Instead we are providing our support in response to the NOSB’s request for the formation of a task force on flavors.

Background on the Formation of the Flavor Task Force

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at the October 2010 meeting recommended the formation of a task force on flavors. The NOP responded to their request in the December 17, 2010 Response Memorandum. The National Organic Program (NOP) responded with the following:
Flavor Task Force: The NOP concurs with the need for a more extensive review of the category of flavors currently listed on the § 205.605(a)1 to determine if there are flavors that should be considered agricultural and required to be organically produced. The NOP does notbelieve there is a need for an NOP sponsored task force on flavors at this time. The NOP believes the formation of an informal industry group to develop a flavor recommendation for the NOSB to consider would accomplish the goal more effectively.
1 Nonagricultural (nonsynthetic) substances allowed in or on “organic” or“made with (specified organic ingredients or food group(s))”

In response to the NOP and to the need for an informal industry task force, OTA invited interested parties to join such a group. The OTA Flavor Task Force is comprised of 12 members and has been meeting once a week since February 18th, 2011. We have completed our first round of work accomplishing our first recommendation.

Objectives of the OTA Flavor Task Force

  • To review the category of flavors currently listed on the § 205.605(a) to determine if there are natural flavors that should be considered agricultural and required to be organically produced.

    • Identify the sub-categories within the larger category of Flavors, non-synthetic that are agricultural.

      • Agricultural product. Any agricultural commodity or product, whether raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock, that is marketed in the United States for human or livestock consumption.

    • Submit to NOSB/NOP a report recognizing that certain categories of Flavors, nonsynthetic are clearly agricultural and thus subject to organic certification and/or listing on § 205.6062.

Summary Recommendation
  • No rule change to current listing of Flavors, non-synthetic on § 205.605(a);
  • NOSB to recommend guidance to the NOP on the types of flavors that are agricultural;
  • Agricultural flavors in organic products must be listed on § 205.606 and subject to commercialavailability.

The Problem

The NOP clarified in 2007 that flavors meeting the FDA definition of “Natural Flavor” are allowed as nonagricultural, nonsynthetic ingredients under 205.605(a) of the National List.

The category of Natural Flavors as defined in 21CFR § 101.22 is an extremely broad group of products.

§ 101.22 Foods; labeling of spices, flavorings, colorings and chemical preservatives,

(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in §§ 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, 182.50, and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in § 172.510 of this chapter.

2 Nonorganic agricultural ingredients allowed in “organic” products when not commercially available in organic form

It is clear from the above CFR definition that this includes every kind of flavor from squeezing orange oil out of an organic Orange peel, to flavors that are the product of genetically modified organisms followed by processes that change the molecular structure of the flavor. Obviously the latter cannot be used in Organic foods under any circumstances and the first example can very clearly be envisioned as
agricultural and achievable as organic certified Orange oil.

As a result, the spectrum of the CFR definition ranges from:

  • Obviously agricultural and easily certified, to;

  • Obviously not agricultural and not only not certifiable but also not usable in organic food under any circumstances;

  • And includes everything on the spectrum in between.

NOP Regulatory Reference

§ 205.605 Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).”

The following nonagricultural substances may be used as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” only in accordance with any restrictions specified in this section.

(a) Nonsynthetics allowed:

Flavors, nonsynthetic sources only and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.

The guidance that the NOP § 205.605 listing applies to anything that meets the definition of a Natural Flavor in the CFRs means that if a flavor meets the definition of ‘Natural Flavor’, the rules of the National List section § 205.605 apply, and commercial availability cannot be enforced. Even though the certification of natural flavors is not required, many operators have voluntary chosen certification because of the great demand by consumers. Below are the results of a survey of ACAs by The Accredited Certifiers Association, Inc.

3. Indicate the number of flavors you certify under the following categories:

This survey also reported that 157 companies are currently being certified. The actual number may be even higher.

The significant number of certified flavors supports the NOP’s 2010 request for guidance on this topic, as the situation has changed significantly since the NOP’s 2007 guidance which stated that any flavor whether agricultural or not, whether certified or not, would be handled according to § 205.605 (a). Since then so many flavors have been identified as certifiable, interest has grown in having the clearly agricultural flavors be subject to the same organic rules as other agricultural products. The flavor categories underlined on the chart above are flavors that the committee has identified as being clearly agricultural. As such, they should be treated as any other agricultural product is treated under the NOP; they must be organic to be used in an organic product or on § 205.606 and subject to
commercial availability.

It is important to note here that the Task Force has not tried to provide the ultimate definition of an agricultural flavor. Our goal was to identify those flavors that are agricultural with little room for debate about whether they should be subject to organic certification or at least commercial availability criteria if listed on § 205.606. An additional goal is then to get these clearly agricultural categories of natural flavors subject to the same organic requirements as all other agricultural products, and to do so as quickly as possible without disrupting the important and growing organic marketplace.

This process will take time because there are still many of these types of flavors within these flavor categories that are not currently commercially available as organic. The process of effecting this transition must provide sufficient time for versions of these flavors to be identified and petitioned on to § 205.606 without the severe disruption to the Organic marketplace that might occur if producers suddenly lost access to agricultural flavors that are not yet commercially available in organic form.


  • No rule change to current listing of Flavors, non-synthetic on § 205.605a.

  • NOSB to recommend guidance to the NOP on the types of natural flavors that are agricultural:

    • Extracts, Distillates, Essential Oils, Essential Oil Distillate, Oleoresin, Essence, Oils

      – Single and multiple fold

      • These are derived from botanical material or fermentation and may beproduced using solvents.

  • Agricultural flavors must be organic, with the exception that non-organic agricultural flavors can be used in organic products if listed on § 205.606 and commercially unavailable in organic form.

  • NOP to provide a phase-in-period to allow types of agricultural flavors that are not yet commercially available as “organic” to be petitioned onto §205.606.
Next Steps
  • Considering possible wording changes to the Flavors listing and annotation in § 205.605.
  • Review current and anticipated industry practices.
  • Follow up with presentation of progress to the fall NOSB meeting.
  • Develop training for ACA’s on the use of flavors in organic products and terminology associated with those flavors.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the OTA Flavor Task Force,

Gwendolyn Wyard
Associate Director of Organic Standards and Industry Outreach
Organic Trade Association

CC: Laura Batcha
Chief of Policy and External Relations
Organic Trade Association

OTA Flavor Task Force Members
Gwendolyn Wyard – Co-Chair (OTA)
Julie Weisman – Co-Chair (Elan / Flavorganics)
Kim Dietz – Secretary (Smucker Natural Foods, Inc.
David Adams – Savoury Systems
John Ashby – California Natural Products
Zareb Herman – The Hain-Celestial Group
Tony Moore – Flavor Producers Inc.
Joe Smillie – Quality Assurance International
Herb Stein – Natural Flavors Inc.
Victoria Alvarez Saavedra – Virginia Dare / Flavor Extract Manufactures Association(FEMA)
Sheila Linderman - Sheila Linderman Consulting
Mac Stone – NOSB Handling Committee Representative

References (Download pdf):
  • Flavor Classification Chart

  • National Organic Standards Board Final Recommendation Addendum Number 14 The use of Natural Flavors in Organic Foods. Date adopted: October 31, 1995

  • Overview of Flavor Additives: Prepared for the USDA NOP & the NOSB 10/14/2005

  • NOP Guidance for Certifiers on Flavors, February 16, 2007

  • NOP Policy Memorandum – Use of Natural Flavors 1/21/2011

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