ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Hello USDA? Check Up on Wal-Mart

The Cornucopia Instiute, a small farm advocacy group, has filed a complaint charging that Wal-Mart is passing off non organic food as organic. At the very least, the retailing giant may be causing consumer confusion if you take a look at the pictures Cornucopia has posted on its web site.

So what's the big deal?

Well, one of the reasons organic regulations were written was to make sure that consumers got what they were paying for. There's a whole system of inspections, certifications and labeling requirements that each producer and retailer must meet in order to sell organic food. Now, a retailer doesn't have to be certified to sell organic food, but they are required by law to label the stuff correctly (among other things). You want the fine print, check it out on the USDA web site here. The bottom line: mislabeling can lead to a $10,000 fine per incident.

Although Cornucopia complained to the USDA several weeks ago, the USDA apparently took no action. Nor did Wal-Mart, although Cornucopia also fired off a letter to Bentonville about the labeling issue. With everyone apparently asleep, Cornucopia - pitbulls that they are - racheted up the action by filing legal action.

Now, it would be easy to cry fraud. More accurately, it's probably a case of ignorant stocking clerks and managers slapping the organic signage on any and all products. Not too keen - but hey, that's what you get in the absence of adequate training about the organic marketplace.

So two things needs to happen. The USDA needs to check this out. And Wal-Mart needs to take some corrective action. They might be able to change the world by embracing sustainability, but first, they've got to get it right.

No wonder some organic types are likening the company's entry in the market as the arrival of Wal-Martians.