The emperor of natural foods, Whole Foods Market (WFM), has no clothes. Throughout the 2009 summer months, OCA has been alerting organic consumers to the troubling fact that the overwhelming majority of grocery items (approximately 2/3) sold by WFM, even their private label "365" brand, are not certified organic, but rather so-called "natural" products that are typically just conventional products in disguise.
While these products do contain some organic ingredients, they do not contain the necessary 95% organic content to merit certification (excluding water and salt).
Note: products made with minimally 70% organic ingredient may be labeled, for example, "soup made with organic vegetables."
But thanks to thousands of emails from members of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA):
Last week, WFM announced it was launching a new "healthy eating" initiative with a greater emphasis on organics [in 2010]. In a highly publicized speech in the UK, John Mackey confessed the company's product selection had veered off course. full article
Actually, John Mackey went even further and said:
"We sell a bunch of junk. We've decided if Whole Foods doesn't take a leadership role in educating people about a healthy diet, who the heck is going to do it?" full article
I do not believe an appropriate excuse is that the organic certification process is too expensive. According to the United States Department of Agriculture:
The Agricultural Management Assistance Program, authorized by the Federal Crop Insurance Act, allocates funds to 15 States to reimburse producers for the cost of organic certification. Producers may be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of their organic certification costs, not to exceed $500. The eligible States are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. read more
But the saga continues. Is the organic certification even truly meaningful? The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has recently responded in a press release to claims that standards are relaxing as organics are rising in popularity. The OTA responds:
The federal organic standards have not been “relaxed.” Rigorously enforced standards can and do go hand-in-hand with growth. The author and those pitching this story have generously borrowed the rhetorical technique of setting up a false choice. The industry and OTA pushed for national organic regulations that consumers could rely on. Organic agriculture and products remain the most strictly regulated, as well as the fastest growing, food system in the United States today. Read more
Suffice it to say, no matter what label is on any product, READ THE INGREDIENTS.
Now for a side story: after realizing that my "organic" shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion are not certified as organic, I read every blasted bottle at Whole Foods today and came out with only one certified organic lotion (Nature's Gate, Rainwater Organics) but no certified organic shampoo, conditioner, or body wash.
Learn more about organic certification here
Note to readers: I do not mean to say by the title of this post that all foods that are not certified organic are "crap." I mean to say that misleading products meant to deceive the consumer are "crap."