Wal-Mart is in hot water again. A Wisconsin watchdog group, The Cornucopia Institute, has filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart, and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC, are violating USDA organic standards by using conventional agricultural oils and other ingredients in pest control products that utilize the word organic and the green “USDA organic” seal. The products in question are marketed under the Bio Block label.
The USDA Organic label by law can only be used by producers that follow the rigorous standards mandated by Congress and administered by the USDA’s National Organic Program.
HOMS apparently violates this mandate by prominently displaying the USDA Organic label on the Bio Block products without specifying what organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity of the organic certifying agent, also required by federal organic regulations. These products were discovered on the shelves of Wal-Mart stores, resurfacing concerns long held by The Cornucopia Institute, and others in the organic industry, that Wal-Mart has failed to take the organic standards seriously.
This isn’t a new situation with Wal-Mart. In 2007, federal investigators found that Wal-Mart’s store “organic” milk, from Aurora Dairy in Colorado, had “willfully” violated 14 organic standards, including confining their cattle to feedlots, instead of grazing, and bringing thousands of illegal conventional cows into their organic operation.
Cornucopia researchers further found inside Walmart stores that the company was mislabeling conventional foods as organic, including yogurt, sugar, rice milk, soy milk and produce. Even after they notified Wal-Mart’s CEO of the problem, no action was taken to fix the problems until until officials of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the USDA took enforcement actions against Wal-Mart in 2007.
So, once again, the biggest retail corporation in the U.S. is playing fast and loose with organics, duping American consumers into thinking they’re buying something that’s healthful. Word to the wise: if it says organic and it’s at Wal-Mart, you probably can’t believe it. A number of organic-minded groups are keeping an eye on this – and turning up the heat on Wal-Mart. But until the feds step in, buyer beware