ChewsWise Blog

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After Lapses, Wal-Mart Steps Up Organic Oversight

Wal-Mart agreed to step up oversight of its organic labeling, after the state of Wisconsin cited the company for numerous inaccuracies.

According to the Cornucopia Institute, which first raised the issue last year, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection told Wal-Mart’s legal counsel that “use of the term ‘Wal-Mart Organics’ in combination with reference to a specific non-organic product may be considered to be a misrepresentation and therefore a violation” of Wisconsin state statutes. 

The AP reports that Wal-Mart "said Tuesday it has given updated guidelines to its employees." The story continues:

Wal-Mart said that green tags on their shelves, which identify food as organic, may have inadvertently or mistakenly been placed, or accidentally shifted in front of the wrong item.

"Our green organic signing is for additional consumer convenience to show that an organic alternative is available. It is not a label," the company said in a statement. "The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) certification label is featured on the packaging of the organic selections we offer and consumers should always rely on this USDA certification label for proper organic verification."

That quote is an interesting bit of semantics, since it essentially says shoppers should understand the difference between a "label" and a "sign." We're not sure the USDA organic program would agree.

Wal-Mart said it is working with store associates to have the identifying tags checked periodically for accuracy.

James Rabbitt, director of the state Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that as long as Wal-Mart keeps in place additional measures to ensure that nonorganic products are not identified by shelf tags as being organic, his agency will not pursue the matter further, other than to monitor Wal-Mart's practices for compliance.