How Much 'Organic" Is Really Organic?

The Lempert Report
June 09, 2017

A new investigation from the Washington Post has revealed that non-organic corn and soy with organic labels is flooding into the United States.

Thirty six million pounds of soybeans, which originated in the Ukraine and Turkey, were priced like regular soybeans, and fumigated with pesticides. But by the time they reached California, they had been labeled as organic – boosting their value by $4 million. Why are we surprised? 

Doesn’t anyone want to pay attention to the lack of inspection of our food imports? Whether it be for food safety protocols or labeling our imported foods, frankly they just don’t have the same standards and traceability of our domestic products – and our retailers need to step up and demand accountability. 

The Post’s investigation found at a Romanian company that provided millions of pounds of corn labeled organic was not certified organic, and originated in Turkey, one of America's largest suppliers of organic foods. 

Food & Wine says that the USDA claims that their safeguards against this type of food fraud are strong, explaining that any organic product must verify its status by producing a “USDA organic certificate.” Still, companies are not required to track their products all the way to the farm of origin, leaving a big gap open in the process. 

And frankly, farmers can also hire inspection companies on their own and schedule inspections in advance and with warning, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity to cover up any evidence that their production process isn’t organic. 

I know what you are thinking, its too hard to get caught and why would any brand risk it. A little over 30 years ago there was a great company out of southern new jersey – Sandy Mac – that processed hams. Back then they were levied the largest fine in the history of the USDA, $1,000,000 for having a false walled USDA safe that they would place samples of the days production in for their meat inspectors to test for levels of water, adulteration and labeling. Oh they also bribed 5 meat inspectors. 

There will always be people who cheat when added margins can be realized, which is why traceability and inspections for all foods imported, exported and domestic – whether its made in a huge facility or in a local purveyors tiny plant -  is critical for our consumers to be confident in the safety and credibility of our foods.