DHA/ARA Dangers in Formula

Why Foods With Added DHA and ARA Should Scare You

I recently caught up with my good friend Max Goldberg who has an inspirational blog about all things organic called Living Maxwell. When we get together, it is inevitable that the conversation will drift to the topic of healthy food for kids. Max is always ahead of the curve when it comes to food choices and offers up excellent guidance.

As the parent of three boys, I have always assumed that foods with added DHA, or Docosahexaenoic Acid (omega-3 fatty acids), and ARA, or Arachidonic Acid (omega-6 fatty acids), only make the food better for your child. From prenatal health guidance to your OB/GYN’s advice to your children’s pediatrician, we constantly hear how important omega-3 and omega-6 is for our children’s brain and eye development. After speaking with Max, I realized there is a lot I don’t know about added DHA and ARA. So, I started researching the heck out of this topic so you don’t have to. Do yourself (and your kids) a favor and avoid foods with added DHA and ARA. (There is also a helpful list of food to avoid at the bottom of this post for parents short on time.)

What you need to know

Most food companies that add DHA and ARA into their products usually call it out in big, bold letters on the front of their packaging. It’s definitely a great marketing angle, but remember about my warning against foods with health claims—they are usually hiding something suspicious. While you’re strolling the grocery aisles you might see a few brands of organic milk, but there’s one boasting added omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Here’s the problem: a majority of the organic food companies are sourcing their DHA and ARA from Martek Biosciences Corporation. So what, right? Well, here’s where things start to get sketchy. Martek’s additives are actually synthetic—created in a lab.

How are they able to add synthetics into an organic product and continue to label it certified USDA Organic? Apparently, at the 2011 USDA/National Organic Standards Board meeting, the issue of DHA and ARA was reviewed, discussed and eventually voted on. The Board decided that DHA and ARA are allowed in certified organic products so long as no hexane can be used during the processing of the additives. (Side note: Hexane is a neurotoxin and by-product of gasoline in petroleum, and is considered a hazardous air pollutant by the EPA). Okay, so no hexane allowed. That sounds better, right? Wrong.

Turns out that even though hexane was banned, there are still no restrictions on the use of any other synthetics in the process. So, just because hexane is out doesn’t mean you’re safe. Also, after a review of Martek’s patents, a major health concern was discovered: Martek is using genetic-modification in the manufacturing process for its DHA. They can sell certified organic milk loaded with synthetic additives that are also genetically modified? Apparently so. Unfortunately it sounds like a classic case of big business influencing the National Organic Standards Board. This just makes my blood boil considering how many expecting women and mothers are relying on this company for a high-quality, organic additive (see prenatal, baby food and baby formula products below). It is completely misleading and should be illegal in my opinion. Our future generations deserve better.

What do we do?

Without question, I am avoiding any and all food and products with added DHA and ARA in them. It’s just not worth the risk of negative side effects like hormone disruption, increased infertility risk, and toxic pollutants in the body (both mine and my children’s).

Below I’ve compiled a list of common food products using Martek’s DHA and ARA as additives which can be found on Martek’s website, here. If you know someone who is pregnant, trying to become pregnant, has children or is just interested in learning more about their food, please pass this information along.


Family Products

Horizon Organic Milk, Stremicks Heritage Foods Organic Milk, ZenSoy Soy On The Go, Wegman’s Organic Yogurt (Plain & Fruit on the Bottom), Orlando Honey Grain 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Challenge Spreadable Butter, Natures Design Egg Sense Eggs, Omega-3 free range Eggs by Marks and Spencer, Oakdell Farm Omega3 Eggs, Farm Pride Omega 3 Eggs, Gold Circle Farms Eggs, Hidden Villa Liquid Eggs, Horizon Fat Free Milk, Horizon Whole Milk, To Be Healthy Pasta Sauce, Nogurt Yogurt Alternative, Famiglia Chiari Omegaella Mozzarella Cheese, Numa Snacks, Life Balance Flour Tortillas, Minute Maid Enhanced Juices, Oaterenergy Rice Milk, Dempster’s Smart Bread (product of Maple Leaf), Starbuck’s Apple Bran Muffins, Bimbo Bakeries DHA Omega-3 Bread, Purely Bulk Gluten-free Baking Mixes, Silk Soymilk, 8th Continent Soymilk, Tounyu (soymilk) and Toni Vivaly Yogurt

Prenatal Products

21st Century Prenatal Multivitamin plus DHA, Anmum Materna, Belly Bar Chews, Be Nice Prenatal Drink Mix, CitraNatal Assure, CitriNatal Harmony, CVS DHA prenatal supplement, Deball 100 mg DHA vitamins, Expecta prenatal vitamins, Gestalys DHA, Gesticare DHA, i-Health Brainstrong Prenatal, Natelle Plus with DHA, Neevo DHA, Omega To Go Drink Mix, Pregnium, Prenatal Gentle DHA (product of Early Promise), Smart Green Mom vitamins, Spectrum Prenatal DHA vitamins, Upsher-Smith Laboratories Prenexa and Walgreen’s Prenatal & DHA vitamins

Baby Food

ABC Infant Yogurt, Bay Valley Baby Food (product of Nature’s Goodness), Beech-Nut Baby Cereal, Beech-Nut Baby Food, Biostime Organic Rice Cereal, Delireal Baby Cereal, Happy Bellies Organic Baby Food, Heinz Buckwheat Baby Cereal, Milkana Baby Cheese, Saputo Little Ones Yogurt, Tasty Baby Organic Infant Cereal, Vaalia My First Yoghurt and Yaolan Infant Nutritional Cereals

Infant Formula

Important: ALL organic infant formula products contain Martek’s DHA with the exception of Baby’s Only Organic Toddler Formula

Bright Beginnings Organic, Earth’s Best Organic, Enfamil LIPIL, Enfamil Next Step, Isomil 2 Advance, New Zealand Colostrum Powder, Parent’s Choice Organic (a product of Walmart), Similac Organic, Similar Advance, Ultra Bright Beginnings Lipids and Vermont Organics

Children’s Products

Active Lifestyle Premium OJ (product of Kroger), Beech-Nut Toddler Beverages, Bournvita Lil Champs Children’s Beverage, Goat-Goat Dairy Drink, Junior Horlicks, Kids-Pro Nutritional Drink, Little Bear Kid Growing Milk, Mengniu Group’s Growing Up Cheese, Nestle Good Start Supreme with DHA & ARA, Pediasure Children’s Beverages, Priegola Simbi Omega 3, Professor Ququ Drink (product of Babyliqi), Pura Kids (product of National Foods), So Good Soy Milk, Vaalia Yogurt for Kids and Toddlers (product of Parmalat), Yo on the Go, and ZenSoy Soy on the Go

Michelle Muller-Marinis is the founder of Silver Spoon and a NYC mom of three boys, Pearce, Rylan and Brandt. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @silverspoonorg, Facebook, and Instagram.



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