Organic Imposters

MHollander

I was complaining to my husband last week about the prices we pay for organic products at our natural foods market. I was comparing them to what I could buy at Safeway; purchasing their store brand organic products. I was also comparing the prices for produce at our local farmers market. After researching for this post, freshness & quality at the farmers market & our local natural food store won over the cheaper prices at Safeway.

What I have wondered about for years: are there really enough small organic farms to supply big box stores like Walmart, Safeway, Target and others? I decided to do some investigating.

What I found was troubling at the very least. Big farms & dairy’s¬†are the ones supplying the bigger stores. These large enterprises are certified organic, by some iffy certifiers, and are cutting corners. According to the following articles, cutting corners means not living up to the organic standards set by the FDA. For example some dairy’s are not allowing the cows outside as outlined in the standards but are factory farming. UGH ūüôĀ


What are the standards? USDA Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools Everything you ever wanted to know about Organic food & organic certification. 


This is a very good article explaining the problem of organic impostors from my ECOWatch Newsletter:¬†Here’s How to Boycott Organic Imposters¬†By Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins,¬†Organic Consumers Association,¬† A recent series of articles by a Washington Post reporter could have some consumers questioning the value of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic seal. But are a few bad eggs representative of an entire industry?

Consumers are all for cracking down on the fraudulent few who, with the help of¬†Big Food, big retail chains and questionable certifiers give¬†organics¬†a bad name. But they also want stronger standards, and better enforcement‚ÄĒnot a plan to weaken standards to accommodate “Factory Farm Organic.”

The article points out that their are about 25,000 honest organic producers & that they are being hurt by the dishonesty of the few. The authors list the ones that we, as consumers, need to watch out for. They also give you the following tools.

  • USDA Organic Integrity Database¬†Organic Certifier locator.
  • The Cornucopia Institute¬†Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Milk¬†Provides links to information about organic dairies & their certifications.
  • Where is My Milk From?¬†How it works:¬†From the cow to your mouth. In five easy steps. Udder to pail. Pail to dairy. Dairy to grocery store. Grocery store to fridge. Fridge to mouth. We’ll let you take it from there. So where is your milk from?¬†Locate the code¬†on your carton or container, enter it above (go to website) and click Find It. You’ll instantly know which dairy your milk came from! The same goes for your yogurt, chocolate milk, soy or organic milk, coffee creamer, cottage cheese, ice cream, and more!
  • The Cornucopia Institute Choosing the best eggs¬†As with the link to the dairy information, this link is all about organic eggs & how to choose them.

Very informative article. It confirmed my suspicions regarding big box stores & their private labels. Private labels are a good way of hiding the suppliers name. Not all private labels are fraudulent. Ask or use the above tools to track down the supplier of your favorite brand.

Organic Consumers Association¬†¬†¬†If you are truly interested in the latest in organic news, then I suggest that you subscribe to their newsletter. I do ūüôā


Who owns who? This is an interesting site not only to see the Organic Industry structure now, but also the structure in 2007 to compare it to! Wow!  See other relevant info-graphics too at: Philip H. Howard Michigan State University  Click on the info-graph below to make it larger & then click again to zoom in.

What are the practical measures we can take to avoid these impostors? We can investigate every label & every certifier & boycott big box stores organic labels. That is not a practical choice for most of us. We are on a budget, and must be careful with each dollar spent on groceries.

Our first question to ourselves is why we are even buying organic. In my case it is a no brainer; for health. I see it as our health insurance. What is your answer? It will influence your buying decisions. 

Here are my steps to balance my budget & still be able to buy organic.

  • Buy local organic produce. Skip the oranges from Chili & the other out of season produce that you know had to come from another country or state. You can buy them locally when the season arrives.
  • Buy local organic products. Our natural foods store has a sign when a product such as honey, peanut butter, locally roasted coffee, olives & more are from a local farm, person, or company. Local means transported within one day from farm/factory to your store.
  • Use EWG’s Dirty Dozen & Clean 15¬†lists. I have the EWG App on my phone so I have it with me all the time.
  • I already use very few canned goods & rarely anything processed. It is amazing how easy it is to do without those items. I buy my beans & rice from bulk bins. Our store has their origin on the label of the bin.
  • I support my local farmers market during the season & our local organic farmer at his stand during the winter months.
  • I am going to stay out of Safeway & Fred Meyers (a Kroeger market). No Target or Costco up here & I have boycotted Walmart for hundreds of years ūüôā ¬†

What are you going to do? Don’t go with the fads or the headlines, or ME! ūüôā This is a personal choice. You need to decide what is right for you & your family.


This is a wonderful resource for your local farmers markets in San Diego County. Farm Bureau San Diego: San Diego County Certified Farmers’ Markets¬†¬†Buy Local San Diego Produce by visiting one of the Certified Farmers’ Markets (CFM) in San Diego County allows you to experience agriculture. Farmers’ Markets provide venues for farmers to sell directly to consumers and supports small farming operations.

If you don’t live in San Diego County, then Google farmers markets in your county.¬†


I will continue to buy organic, support our local farmers & grow as much as we can. My budget will have to accommodate that choice. As I said earlier, this is our health insurance.

Until next week…Mary ūüôā