THE Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (Siap) will seek the help of ASEAN stakeholders and the assistance of government agencies as they continue to lobby to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to retain carrageenan in the list of approved additive in organic food.
Starting January 2017, the USDA will begin reviewing the recommendations of the US National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) on carrageenan and the other substances that were considered in the sunset review.
In a 10-3 vote last Nov. 17, the NOSB voted to remove carrageenan from the list of “approved for use in organic food”. The final and binding vote, though, will be taken by USDA.
By November 2017, the USDA is expected to publish proposed rules on the use of carrageenan in organic food. There will be a 30-day comment period on the proposed rules. The deadline for publication on the USDA’s final rule is on Nov. 3, 2018.
The Philippine government’s next step, according to the report submitted by the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Embassy of the Philippines in Washington to the Department of Trade and Industry, is to meet with the relevant USDA officials to provide further information on carrageenan, including technical studies done by the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in coordination with the FMC Corp. and the agricultural attaché.
It also plans to continue its meetings with other relevant US government agencies and interested delegations in Washington, DC.
FMC Corp. is a Cebu-based seaweed processor that represented the country’s seaweed industry during the NOSB hearing.
“Stakeholders are raising strong drive against such negative campaigns by competitors and anti-carrageenan advocates,” said Siap chairman Max Ricohermoso.
He said the impact of this issue has been felt many months ago due to social media campaigns by the organics advocates. “The organic food market is less than 10 percent but the NOSB decision may also affect the natural and processed food application,” the industry player said.
He said this has caused a 20- to 30-percent reduction in export volume in the last two years.
FMC Corp. said it will continue to aggressively advocate for carrageenan with the USDA, influential government officials, customers and consumers. The company will also seek support from consular offices as well as unite allies in the food industry, and government and non-government organizations community.
It will likewise continue to promote carrageenan through traditional, digital, and social media channels.
FMC said they are confident carrageenan will continue to be allowed in organic foods.
Ricohermoso said the seaweed/carrageenan industry is projecting a challenging 2017 following the dismal performance last year due to the slow growth of major economies. Cheaper prices of carrageenan have also hurt the country’s seaweed exports.
However, stakeholders are on the lookout for new markets and new carrageenan applications.
“There are quite a number of countries being eyed as export targets such as South America, Middle East, Africa and West Asia. New applications underway are in nutraceuticals, health care, cosmetics and many other industries. Carrageenan demand for these new applications is much much greater than current usages,” said Ricohermoso.