7 Chemicals Allowed in Organic Food in Everyday Life

Before talking about chemicals allowed in organic food, we better talk about what organic means. We often hear about the term of organic and see various food labelled with organic. What does it really mean?

The simple definition of organic is a product which is made without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms and ionizing radiation. Not only about how it made, animals that produce dairy products also do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. So, does it mean that all organic products are actually 100% organic?

The answer is no. There are three categories of labeling organic products, identified by USDA: 100% organic, organic and made with organic ingredients. The definition that we have already mentioned before is for 100% organic. When a product is labelled as organic, it is made with at least 95% organic ingredients.

A made with organic ingredients’ product is made with a minimum 70% organic ingredients. The rest 30% should be without the use of GMO (genetically modified organisms). You may also want to read about organic chemicals in Examples of Organic Compounds and Uses.

After knowing about those definitions, we can conclude that an organic product may contain both non-organic ingredients (inorganic chemistry in Some Examples of Inorganic Compounds) and synthetics. Some chemicals are also allowed in organic food. Here is the list of chemicals allowed in organic food:

1. Ethylene

Ethylene belongs to hydrocarbon. Ethylene can’t be seen nor be smelled. Naturally, ethylene is produced by some fruits like apples and pears as ripening begins. It can also occur as a result of combustion and other processes.

Ethylene gas is used commercially to ripen tomatoes, bananas, pears, etc. People thinks that ethylene is an aging hormone in plants. It doesn’t only cause fruits to ripen, it may also cause plants to die.

As chemicals, the use of ethylene in plants also has several side effects. The side effects include loss of chlorophyll, abortion of plant parts, stem shortening, abscission of plant parts and bending of stems (epinesty). The effects may be different depending on the age of the plant and how sensitive the plant is to ethylene.

2. Synthetic DHA

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) was substantiated based upon the fact that a mother’s breast milk naturally contains polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Those are vital components for the development of human eye and brain, especially in infants. Truth is, DHA being used in infant formula is structurally incompatible with form found in human milk. You may also want to read Chemicals in the Brain That Can Affect Your Body and Emotions.

Synthetic DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, derived from algae. It can be found in some dairy products. Products containing this chemical as ingredient are baby formulas and nutritional supplement for adults. What you should know is that algae used in producing DHA is generated through induced mutations. It means that the process involves the use of radiation and harsh chemicals. Recently, it is said that synthetic DHA may cause severe reactions in baby such as breathing problems and gastrointestinal upset. 

3. Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate

Tetrasodium pyrophosphate is a mixture of phosphoric acid with sodium carbonate. It is used in soy-based meat alternatives. The chemical promotes in binding of proteins to water, binding the soy particle together. It is also used in making chicken nuggets, imitation crab and lobster products.

Tetrasodium pyrophosphate contains high sodium. Consuming much of tetrasodium pyrophosphate cause high blood phosphate level and high blood sodium level. There are also several side effects of consuming this chemical including obesity, renal disease, damages blood vessels and induces aging processes.

4. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides which is extracted from red edible seaweeds. Because of their properties such as gelling, thickening and stabilizing, carrageenan is widely used in the food industry. If you regularly drink almond or coconut milk, you probably notice carrageenan existing on its package.

You should take a note that carrageenan is not digestible nor has nutritional value. It is often found in organic food just because it thickens and emulsifies them well. If you consume it regularly, you may react negatively with symptoms like digestive troubles, skin rashes, etc. To make it worse, carrageenan is capable of causing inflammation. A chronic inflammation is a root of many serious diseases: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson.

5. Glycerin

Glycerin, glycerine and glycerol are 3 different names for the same substance. In food, it is used as sweetener. Having chemical formula C3H5(OH)3, it belongs to the list of chemicals allowed in organic food. Glycerin may cause side effects as laxative, but it doesn’t likely cause side effects when it is used as food ingredient. 

6. Calcium Citrate

Calcium citrate is the calcium salt derived from citric acid. Naturally, lemons, lime, grapefruit and orange are the examples of fruit containing the chemical. Calcium citrate, in the form of citric acid, is also used in cheese manufacturing to produce acids required for enzyme activity. Other use of calcium citrate can be found in various frozen food. It is used as a dough conditioner in frozen dumplings, cakes, biscuits, muffins and more.

In human, mineral calcium is important to support tissue, bones and cells in the body. Within body, calcium aids in the activation of enzymes for proper digestion, encourages a healthy heart and nervous system. The side effects caused by this chemical are mood swings, headaches, increased cholesterol levels and bone deterioration.

7. Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium bicarbonate is widely used in organic farming. It can be used as a contact fungicide in a variety crops such as pome, berries, vegetables and cereals. It mainly inhibits fungus mycelium development. In some crops, potassium bicarbonate may also replace copper or sulfur fungicides. More about potassium in Potassium Uses and Properties in Everyday Life.

Prohibited Chemicals in Organic Food

There are some prohibited chemicals in food such as:

  1. arsenic,
  2. strychnine
  3. and tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate).

That’s all for 7 chemicals allowed in organic. It turns out that an organic product also contains some chemicals. Most of them may cause side effects, such as written in Banned Food Additives In Many Countries, but plenty of them are considered safe.