I had a very disturbing situation recently that has me wondering how much of my organic food is really organic.
Several weeks ago my son was picking up some groceries for us at the local Von’s supermarket. We eat organic and do most of our shopping at a health food store in Palm Springs. However, this is over an hour drive for us so we get some of our food from the organic selection that Von’s carries, called the “O” brand.
We get the “O” brand organic eggs. They usually have an abundance of them, but they were completely out. My son asked an employee what happened to the organic eggs and the employee told him that when the eggs got to the organic certifier they were found to not be organic and therefore could not be certified. The clerk told him this was the second time this happened.
In addition to the “O” brand eggs, I also eat their spinach, chicken, green beans and California blend veggies, so I would like to feel assured that I am truly eating organic when they carry the USDA certified organic label, but I do not.
This is not the first time I have heard of this type of situation, so I guess it doesn’t surprise me, but it’s very troublesome. Both Walmart and Horizon have been caught violating organic standards and so have organic suppliers from China.
What is most disturbing about this situation is that this is likely to grow into a bigger and uglier monster over time. As more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of eating food laced with pesticides and are making the choice to eat organic, mainstream grocery suppliers have realized there is money to be made. That is why we now see organic food popping up everywhere.
The problem lies in the fact that these companies do not share our organic values and have no interest in making sure that producers are living up to organic standards. They are in it only for the money.
Foods that carry the USDA certified organic label rely on certifying agencies. However we can’t rely on certifying agencies to uphold the ethics and ensure the safety of the foods either, because they too do not share our values. They aren’t educated thoroughly on the topic, they have no passion to uphold, it isn’t important to them and they are likely to let things slip by. Some of the certifying agencies themselves have been caught violating the standards.
To solve this problem the government needs to place employees that have a passionate interest in organics in the positions that oversee the certifying process, but that isn’t something likely to happen anytime soon, if ever at all.
At this point, I feel the best we can do is keep informed by visiting places like the Organic Consumers Association and trying to choose the suppliers that have the best reputation, but it seems there is really no way to be certain anymore that our food is truly organic.
Another alternative is to find people locally in your community that you can trust that produce organic food and buy from them. Sometimes they can be found in your local health food store or Farmer’s market, but this isn’t an option for everyone.
Violating organic standards is a very frightening trend and one that I fear will only continue to get worse as more of the mainstream food suppliers get their hands in the organic pot.