Big Food takes over the organic market

Large agricultural and food companies figured out early on that the term “organic” can be thrown around as a marketing slogan. Not to mention a means to charge a hefty premium to consumers seeking “safe and healthy” foods.

So over the course of five years (from 1997-2002) the USDA fuddled around with regulations for the organic industry. But of course, during that time, businesses moved far more swiftly than the government. And Big Food snatched up a number of successful organic food producers.

For example…

  • The companies Bear Naked, Kashi, and Wholesome & Hearty were all bought by  Kellogg’s (originally founded as a true health-food company in Battle Creek, Michigan in the 1880’s)
  • Naked Juice now belongs to Pepsico
  • Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics are owned by Hain Celestial (which was associated with food giant Heinz). In fact, together, Hain and Heinz scooped up 19 organic brands. 

In other words, “Big Food” now sets the standard for what can be considered “organic.” Literally. According to a recent New York Times article, “major corporations have come to dominate the board that sets these standards.”

So it’s no wonder that, since 2002, the number of non-organic substances in supposedly “organic” foods increased from 77 to 250.

And just last December, members of this “organic standard” board held a vote on whether to include a chemical called ammonium nonanoate on the approved list of organics. Among those in favor were not only Campbell’s Soup and General Mills, but your “friends” at Earthbound Farms, Organic Valley, and yes—Whole Foods Market (for more on Whole Foods’ less-than-wholesome activities, refer back to the Daily Dispatch “Whole Foods Misses the Forest for the Seas”).

Fortunately, they lost that vote, or we would all have been treated to the spectacle of having an herbicide on the approved organic list. Of course, this list is meaningless now anyway.

The government lets Big Food run rampant with these “new natural” terms they can use to charge consumers more. Yet, all the while, they limit supplement manufacturers’ ability to claim health benefits for nature’s vast list of nutrients and herbal remedies. Which represent true natural health and wellness.

The few surviving independent organic food producers include Amy’s Kitchen, Clif Bar, Eden, and Lundberg Family Farms. So if purchasing organic food is important to you, stick with products from these companies. Otherwise, those  “Certified-Organic” labels you see are likely just a fraud.