Guidance on Acetic Acid/Vinegar Use on Organic Farms

Guidance on Acetic Acid/Vinegar Use on Organic Farms
Jonathan - Tue Mar 26, 2013 @ 08:43PM
Comments: 52

Guidance on the Use of Acetic Acid and Vinegar in farm operations under the USDA National Organic Program Regulations

March 23, 2013

This guidance is being issued to clarify the allowed, restricted, and prohibited uses for acetic acid and vinegar in farm operations certified under the USDA National Organic Program. The terms vinegar and acetic acid are sometimes used interchangeably, although strictly speaking acetic acid is only one of the substances present in vinegar. Nonetheless, when the concentration of acetic acid exceeds a certain point (generally 8%) the product is usually referred to as acetic acid. Additionally, a product labeled as vinegar is, when sourced from a U.S. manufacturer, a product produced from fermentation. From the standpoint of the USDA organic regulations the distinction between vinegar and acetic acid is less important than the question of whether or not the substance is synthetic or non-synthetic, because this determines if the product has restricted uses and whether or not a specific use is prohibited.

Restricted Uses for Non-Synthetic Vinegar

 A non-synthetic vinegar or acetic acid is a restricted substance under the USDA organic regulations, it can be used for pest, weed, or disease control if physical, cultural, and mechanical means of control have proved insufficient and that the conditions for using the substance are documented in the organic system plan (i.e. an indication that it will only be used if physical, cultural, and mechanical prove insufficient for control.)

Establishing the Non-Synthetic Status of Vinegar or Acetic Acid

The burden of establishing the non-synthetic status of the product is on the operation using it. Documenting the non-synthetic nature of a vinegar or acetic acid can be accomplished in one of two ways: 1) Documentation from the manufacturer describing the manufacturing process; or 2) If the product is manufactured in the U.S. and is labeled as vinegar by the manufacturer this will be sufficient proof that the product is non-synthetic.

Restricted Uses of Synthetic Vinegar of Acetic Acid

A synthetic vinegar or acetic acid is treated as a restricted substance under the USDA organic regulations, meaning that is has some approved uses or some conditions on use. When used in compliance with these approved uses or conditions on use, the product can be used by a certified organic operation. When used for a non-approved use or in violation of the conditions on use, the product is treated as a prohibited substance and its use will lead to suspension or revocation of certification for a minimum of three years.

The restricted uses for synthetic acetic acid are as follows: synthetic vinegar, at a maximum of 8% acetic acid in solution, is a minimum risk inert ingredient that may be used as both an adjuvant or an inert ingredient in combination with active allowed pesticide ingredients or allowed herbicide ingredients.

What Should a Farm Do?

The first step is to determine the intended use of the vinegar or acetic acid on the farm. If the intended use is for weed control (the most common use), then the farm must source non-synthetic vinegar or non-synthetic acetic acid. In the United States, substances labeled by the manufacturer as vinegar are always non-synthetic. If the manufacturer labels the product as acetic acid the farm must obtain further documentation from the manufacturer that the product is non-synthetic. Specifically, the manufacturer must submit a signed statement which states: “This product is produced through fermentation and not through methanol carbonylation, acetaldehyde oxidation, or ethylene oxidation.”

If the intended use is as an adjuvant or inert ingredient in a combination with an active pesticide or herbicide ingredient allowed under the USDA organic regulations, the farm must document this intended use in its organic system plan and disclose the concentration to be used in the final end product and the active ingredient in the final end product, as well as the intended use of the final end product.

Please note that the use of a synthetic vinegar or acetic acid for weed control when not used as an adjuvant or inert ingredient combined with an allowed active ingredient, or in a concentration higher than 8%, is a prohibited use which may lead to revocation or suspension of organic certification.

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