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Of all the synthetic products allowed in organic food production, sanitizers required for food safety standards are some of the most important for all producers and handlers.

The National Organic Standards Board, a diverse group of growers, handlers and environmentalists charged with decided what stays on the National List of allowed materials in organic food production, discussed the need for a technical review of sanitizers at its biannual meeting in Seattle this week.

Many producers came to the meeting concerned that the proposal would be a stepping stone toward the National Organic Program removing critical food safety tools and further limiting the options packers need to rotate resistance management.

Board chair Harriet Behar addressed the concern raised during public comments and stressed that the proposal was not aimed at taking away needed tools from producers but, rather, developing a reference for the board to use going forward in evaluating new sanitizer petitions and sunset reviews — the process of deciding whether or not to renew currently listed products every 5 years.

“The goal is not to limit sanitizer use but to better evaluate the petitions we get by how they fit into the constellation of sanitizers,” she said, adding that she is a Produce Safety Alliance trainer and understands the Food Safety Modernization Act requirements. “I understand about biofilms and pathogens and how they can hide and grow and cause a food safety crisis.”

Several other board members recommended that the review be used as a framework to help the board approve more sanitizers in the future, rather than to limit them. No vote was taken following the discussion; more work is needed to develop a detailed statement of work for the desired technical review.

Two sanitizers were discussed as part of the sunset review process, peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide, and the discussion for both centered on their ongoing importance to organic food processing and handling.

A petition to add a new antimicrobial product, silver dihydrogen citrate, was rejected by the board by a vote of 5 to 9, primarily due to concerns about disposal and wastewater treatment.

—by Kate Prengaman