PCC shoppers' opinions about "nutrient additives"

Sound Consumer | December 2011

From the editors

You may recall a survey in the August Sound Consumer that asked questions about what you, as a PCC shopper, know and believe about "nutrient additives" in organic foods.

Your strong response was, in itself, significant — 1,432 of you completed it. We learned how sensitive consumers are to additives deemed "nutrients," whether natural or synthetically derived.

The data we collected was sent to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). At its semi-annual meeting that ends December 2, the NOSB will discuss whether it will permit certain nutrient additives in organics. We know your input will be valuable in the board's decision-making.

The meeting happened after press time for this issue but you can visit the National Organic Program website to learn what it decided. We’ll also update this page with more information as it becomes available.

Here are some key findings from the survey:

  • Dietary supplements are taken by most (88.5 percent) PCC shoppers.
  • Vitamins, by far, are the most popular dietary supplement — taken by 82.1 percent of survey respondents. Omega-3s are taken by almost 6 out of 10 respondents.
  • A majority of PCC shoppers (52.9 percent) believe that most of the vitamins and minerals sold at PCC are made from natural ingredients. Only 4.9 percent say they believe most vitamins and minerals at PCC are made from synthetic ingredients. More than four out of 10 shoppers (42.2 percent) say they don't know. (See sidebar on understanding vitamins and minerals.)
  • Although PCC shoppers are inclined to take dietary supplements on a regular basis, they tend not to shop purposefully for organic products labeled as containing added vitamins, minerals or other nutrients for enhanced nutritional value. Only about 16 percent deliberately choose food products, such as organic milk and eggs, because they're labeled as containing added vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. We interpret this to mean you consider the organic foods you buy to be healthy inherently, without additives.
  • Almost eight out of 10 PCC shoppers (77.8 percent) do not believe the Food and Drug Administration ensures all added nutrients, such as omega-3s, are effective and safe before allowing them on the market.
  • More than 90 percent of PCC shoppers (92.3 percent) purchase at least one common food source of natural omega-3s deliberately because of omega-3 content. For instance, salmon or other fish is purchased by two-thirds of PCC shoppers. Close to half buy walnuts, flax or chia seeds/oil, or grass-fed meat for their natural omega-3 content. A significant percentage purchase pastured dairy and/or omega-3 eggs for their natural omega-3 content.
  • PCC shoppers prefer — by an overwhelming margin — that added omega-3s be made from naturally occurring sources, compared to synthetically derived omega-3s. About 65 percent of shoppers would buy foods with added omega-3s from organic flax seeds, 56 percent from wild fish, and 51 percent from organic algae — all natural sources.
  • Six of 10 PCC shoppers would not purchase products to which omega-3s made from synthetic sources have been added. Nearly 90 percent of you would not purchase foods with omega-3s made with synthetic additives or agents, including hexane, glucose syrup solids and modified starch. About three-quarters would not purchase foods with synthetic stabilizers, genetically engineered algae or farmed fish. Well over half of you would not purchase foods with mannitol, sodium phosphate or non-organic sunflower oil.
  • A significant proportion of shoppers (11.0 percent overall) would not purchase foods with any added omega-3s, even if the omega-3s are derived from natural sources.

Thank you to those who took time to complete the survey! We learned a lot about shoppers' knowledge and preferences regarding nutrient additives.

We understand that you strongly prefer that anything added to your food be from natural sources, not synthetic, and that many if not most of you prefer that nothing at all be added to whole, organic foods.

Remember to visit the National Organic Program website or return to this page to learn what the NOSB decided on nutrient additives in organics.

More about: additives, NOSB, omega-3, organic food, supplements, vitamins

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