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Is Your Organic Food Really Organic?

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.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Teena Massingill May 3, 2010, 4:33 pm

    Cynthia—

    This message is in response to your April 18th posting regarding O Organics eggs. I completely understand your concern and would like to correct the misinformation that you received from the store employee.

    From time to time, the supplier of O Organics eggs experiences temporary supply shortages when laying hens are rotated in and out of the flock. There is a very limited group of suppliers who meet our criteria for O Organic eggs, thus we cannot simply find a temporary supplier to fill the demand. During this time, stores will be out of stock, as was the case when you initially inquired about the lack of O Organics eggs at your local Vons store. At no time has the supplier provided eggs that were not USDA-certified organic or that did not meet the high standards for O Organics eggs. O Organics eggs, like all O Organics products, meet the USDA National Organic Program guidelines and verified are by Quality Assurance International. Also, the supplier has a USDA grader on site to guarantee that eggs continually meet the USDA organic standards.

    Hope this addresses your concerns.

    Thank!

    Teena Massingill
    Director of Corporate Public Affairs
    Safeway Inc.

  • Admin - Cynthia Perkins May 20, 2010, 10:17 am

    Hi Teena,

    Thank you for your response. It’s nice to know that someone is listening.

    I really hope that what you say you is true. However, I find it impossible to believe that the employee would have told my son this piece of information if it wasn’t true. I certainly don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but I can say it was not just a stock person who he talked to. It seems to me that there would be no reason they would say this if it weren’t true. I don’t see how could they come up with such an explanation without some kind of truth behind it.

    So I don’t feel totally assured, but it is a little comforting that at least someone is paying attention

    Additionally, this doesn’t address the issue that the certifiers and the government themselves can’t be trusted to uphold standards. However that is not on your shoulders.

    While I have your attention, I’d like to take advantage of the situation and bring up another major issue I have with the Von’s store.

    In the summer months, you sit pesticide products right up front near the doors and the check out area. Additionally, throughout the year, you often sit laundry products in a variety of places throughout the store, like beside the eggs and the chicken. I find this very offensive.

    Pesticides are powerful neurotoxins that destroy the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, metabolic system, and detoxification system, to name only a few. They are responsible for a variety of debilitating health conditions. Small amounts of them make it into the air space as they sit there in their containers.

    I personally get very sick when I am exposed to them and must avoid them at all costs. I have to duck and run to avoid them in your store. My body will begin to quiver by simply walking past them. You may think I am an isolated case, but that is not true. I know thousands of people who have similar reactions. I know people who can’t go in Von’s stores or other similar stores because of these types of situations.

    The same applies to traditional laundry detergent. It too contains a variety of toxic chemicals that are detrimental to our health. When it sits that close to other foods, those foods absorb the smell and taste of the laundry detergent. I sometimes have to throw away my chicken and eggs because they are contaminated with laundry detergent.

    The laundry detergent and pesticides should, at the very least, remain in their own isle. If somebody wants to buy them, then they can go to their respective isle. They should not be scattered all over the store, exposing everyone to their toxins.

    If the rest of society wants to poison themselves, that is their prerogative, however I shouldn’t have to be assaulted with these toxins when I do my grocery shopping.

    I hope that you will talk with the powers that be in regard to this matter and consider keeping these toxic products away from the food products and out of the front area where there is no way to avoid them.

    Thanks for your time.

    Best
    Cynthia

  • Jay November 3, 2011, 2:12 am

    I agree with Cynthia. I had actually just discovered the O Organic brand by Safeway. I have been doing some research on whether this brand is trustworthy. In addition to other references, and, especially in dairy, I have my doubts.

    I also find it concerning that Neema’s response is so assertive. In no way would she know which store it came from nor did he/she give any evidence of her claim. Nor did he/she mention anything about the ethics, the trust, or nobility behind organic foods. She/he listed one regulation after another as if that satisfied a reader’s concerns.

    If Safeway is truly as dedicated to organic foods as those who search for true organics, I would expect much more effort in communicating the importance of organic foods. Going organic is a conscious and difficult choice, requiring a lot of dedication. Safeway, thank you for trying, I just hope that it goes down a path of dedication and concern for the greater cause of organic foods, rather than for solely monetary gains.

  • Reader who agrees October 16, 2012, 2:23 am

    Thank you for addressing the concerns of people who are chemically sensitive. We may show reaction to chemical items sooner, but we are like the canaries in a coal mine. Everyone is affected when chemicals leach into the air or into nearby foods. A restaurant is not allowed to store chemicals next to food for this reason – so why are groceries?

    I too have to walk past such aisles as quickly as I can, and I’ve even had to leave stores before. The fumes make me dizzy, my head pounds, and I begin to shake. This is no small matter. I know most don’t believe this exists, until it happens to them. Allergies and sensitivities can come about at any point in life; before you pooh-pooh it, pray it isn’t you one day.

    Until then all groceries can prove they care about their customers and the safety of their food products by putting ALL noxious chemical items – cleansers, pesticides, even perfumed soaps – in their OWN section far from foods, and far from the entrance. Thank you.

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