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ABA: Organic yeast proposal could cause massive headache for bakers

By Elaine Watson , 26-Apr-2011
Last updated on 26-Apr-2011 at 12:14 GMT

Proposals to prevent bakers from calling their wares organic if they use standard baker’s yeast could “dramatically impact availability in the organic bakery product category”, the American Association of Bakers (ABA) has warned.

Currently, standard (non-certified organic) baker’s yeast is on USDA’s National Organic Program's (NOP's) national list (205.605) of non-organic agricultural products that are allowed to be used as ingredients in products labeled organic, ABA senior vice president, government relations & public affairs Lee Sanders told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

Yeast is [currently] included in this NOP list under a group of substances referred to as nonsynthetic or natural substances.”

Major ramifications for organic bakery trade

However, last October, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended an annotation to be added for yeast on the National List stating: ‘When used as food or a fermentation agent, yeast must be organic if its end use is for human consumption. Non-organic yeast may be used when equivalent organic yeast is not commercially available.’

If this is approved at the NOSB meeting in Seattle this week (April 26-29), it could have major ramifications for the organic bakery category as organic yeast is “not readily available”, said the ABA, which has written to NOSB along with The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) outlining its concerns.

The ABA was only aware of one company in Germany producing organic yeast that fit USDA’s criteria, added Sanders. “This requirement would dramatically impact the availability in the organic bakery product category.”

‘Serious restriction’ for bakeries in North America

She added: “There is one company in Germany producing organic certified yeast, which may be considered by the NOP as ‘commercially available’. However, the quantity available is not adequate to supply the vast North American bakery market.

“Therefore, this annotation will result in a serious restriction for bakeries in North American to produce organic bread.”

To add to bakers’ woes, in March 2010, the NOP issued a guidance document for certification of organic yeast (NOP 5014) requiring that raw materials, or substrates for growing organic yeast must also be certified organic, said IFAC executive director Haley Curtis Stevens.

The most common carbohydrate substrate currently used for production of yeast is molasses. Organic molasses is in very limited supply and is several times more costly compared with conventional molasses.”

Dramatic reduction in availability to consumers

In a letter to the NOSB sent earlier this month, The ABA and IFAC wrote: “Our organizations do not agree with the recommendation … Organic yeast are not readily available (we understand organic yeast is only available in one country in Europe), which would greatly limit its use in organic and made with organic products, thus potentially dramatically reducing availability to consumers.

“Further, this recommendation has not been put forth for public comment, as is the procedural requirement. IFAC and ABA strongly encourage the NOP not to include this annotation for yeast in the national list.”

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