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There is a huge problem in the organic foods industry, and it's a problem that our government refuses to address. The issue is that many of the imported foods into the US are actually not organic, and are not complying with organic standards. The result is that crops grown in the US, from farms following organic standards, can not compete with the low prices of fraudulent "organic" imports.

Now there is a follow-up to the lawsuit filed last October 2023 by Organic Eye and others about this "organic" fraud and lack of oversight by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) of foreign organic imports. It turns out that big business and industry lobbying groups are just fine with the lack of oversight and fraud - because it's great for their bottom line (billions of dollars!) And so they are opposing the lawsuit!

Many organic imported foods from places like China, Brazil, and Turkey are actually not organic, and this is why their "organic" foods are so inexpensive.  (The Washington Post and others have written about the fraud.)

Instead, try to buy organic foods grown and produced in the US, Canada, the European Union - and also from local farmers.

The following are excerpts from a follow-up article from Organic Eye - the investigative watch-dog group, who are trying to make sure that organic food really is organic. Go check out their site and read the full article, as well as others on the site.

Excerpts from Organic Eye - Organic Civil War: US Farmers Face off in Court Against Importers of Potentially Fraudulent Food

Last fall an Oregon organic hazelnut farmer filed a federal lawsuit against the USDA alleging the agency’s complacency in allowing massive imports that do not meet the federal statutory requirement that all certified farms be inspected on an annual basis. The lawsuit suggested this opens up a large percentage of the US organic food supply to wholesale fraud.

Instead of collaborating with the farmer-plaintiff and the nonprofit farm policy research group backing the effort, OrganicEye, to tighten up oversight on international organic production, a consortium of business interests has now filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of the USDA and the status quo, worth billions of dollars in international commerce. ...continue reading "Why Many “Organic” Foods From Other Countries Are So Cheap"

Many consumers don't realize it, but some (many?) of the countries that flood the US market with "organic" foods are actually committing fraud. The so-called organic foods are not organic, but are conventionally grown and the documents saying they are organic have been purchased for a price.

The investigative group Organic Eye that monitors the organic industry, including looking for fraud, has filed a lawsuit about this issue.

Many organic imported foods from places like China, Brazil, and Turkey are actually not organic, and this is why their "organic" foods are so inexpensive compared to foods grown by legitimate organic farmers here in the US. The Washington Post and others have written about the fraud. Buyer beware!

Yes, buy organic foods as much as possible, but try to buy organic foods grown and produced in the US, Canada, the European Union - and also from local farmers.

Excerpts from Organic Eye: Lawsuit Alleges Violation of Federal Law and a Green Light for Fraud - US Family Farmers Competitively Damaged, Consumers Deceived

Eugene, Ore. — When Oregon organic hazelnut grower Bruce Kaser started looking into why organic hazelnut imports from Turkey were priced so low, close to conventional hazelnuts, he found he was pulling on a thread that had the USDA certification of foreign commodities unraveling. His research exposed a systemic, conflict-ridden scandal, and led to the filing of a federal lawsuit on October 17 against the USDA, alleging a breach in the intent of Congress’ Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). ...continue reading "Organic Foods From Other Countries May Not Be Organic"

There is a big problem with the label ORGANIC. Many organic farmers are upset and disappointed with how "organic factory farms" have taken over the multi-billion organic food industry. And they should be upset.

Organic foods are foods grown and processed following organic farming standards (rules). But... Big Business (who support factory farms) has influenced the organic rules and has found all sorts of loopholes which they use. This is not for the better for the farmer or consumer.

Ethical organic farmers are paying the price. Doing organic correctly (e.g., cows actually graze outdoors, berry crops actually grown in soil) costs more than factory farming which ignores organic rules (e.g., stuffing thousands of animals into buildings without any real access to outdoors). So... the smaller organic farmers actually following the spirit of organic standards can't compete with factory farms and are being forced out of farming.

Also, much "organic" food and products coming from countries such as China and Turkey are NOT organic - the label is a total fraud. That is why their "organic" is so cheap compared with North American and European  grown organic food.

Credit: Real Organic Project

Organic farmers are now fighting back by developing labels that distinguishes their food and products as "real" organic - organic how it's meant to be. For example, the animals receive organic feed from the start, do go outside, and crops are grown in soil (and not artificially in water filled containers). A new label gaining popularity is Real Organic Project. So far over 1000 US farms have joined.

What you can do: Go check out farmers markets and support small farms. Buy organic food that is known to support real organic practices (e.g., Organic Valley - a co-op of organic farmers) rather than factory farmed food (e.g., Horizon, Aurora). [See photos: Cornucopia; Two organic farm and industry watchdogs are OrganicEye and Cornucopia Institute]

Written by organic blueberry farmer Hugh Kent, from Mother Earth News: Real Organic Project: Is “USDA Organic” Really Organic?

Is “USDA Organic” Really Organic?

Many of us who want good, healthy food look at labels in hopes they’ll help us evaluate our food and its quality. We’ve turned with hope to terms like “all-natural,” “sustainable,” and, lately, “regenerative,” but none of these has an established or consistent meaning. In the U.S., the word “organic” stands alone as a term defined by law. “Certified Organic” can only be used if the product complies with the law (which emphasizes the enhancement of soil quality as its foundational principle). ...continue reading "Some Foods With Organic Labels Are Not So Organic"

Well, the following findings make total sense. A recent study found that organic meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) is less likely to be contaminated by harmful bacteria, including multidrug resistant bacteria. These findings hold even if it is processed in a place that also processes non-organic (conventional) meat. But the best results are if organic meat is processed at a processing facility that only handles organic meat.

One interesting finding was that the type of meat processing facility also mattered. Conventional meat that is processed by a "split-processing" facility (processes both organic and conventional meat) had lower rates of multidrug resistant bacteria contamination than processing facilities that only handle conventional meat. This could be because disinfection has to take place in-between processing of organic and conventional meat batches.

This antibiotic use and resistant bacteria association has been known for years for both humans and animals. If antibiotics and other antimicrobials are avoided whenever possible, then bacteria are less likely to mutate, and there is a lower incidence of multidrug resistant microbes.

Bottom line: try to eat organically grown meat whenever possible. It's better environmentally and better for health.

From Science Daily: Organic meat less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria

Meat that is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can sicken people, including dangerous, multidrug-resistant organisms, compared to conventionally produced meat, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  ...continue reading "Organic Meat Less Likely To Be Contaminated By Harmful Bacteria"

New research once again confirms that raw fruits and vegetables result in a person ingesting lots of microbes. Millions of bacteria. Which is considered beneficial for our gut microbiome! What's interesting in the latest study looking at bacteria in both conventionally and organically grown apples is that organic apples are a better source of bacteria - that their bacteria are more diverse, distinct, and balanced (when compared to conventionally grown apples).

The Austrian researchers (Wassermann et al) wrote in the Frontiers In Microbiology: "Our results suggest that we consume about 100 million bacterial cells with one apple. Although this amount was the same, the bacterial composition was significantly different in conventionally and organically produced apples."

Interestingly, there were a lot of beneficial Lactobacillus species in the organic apples, but not conventionally grown ones. The researchers thought that the diverse microbiome of organic apples probably limits or hampers harmful microbes (human pathogens). The researchers also wrote: "The described microbial patterns in organic apples resemble the impact of apple polyphenols on human health, which have not only been shown to alleviate allergic symptoms (Zuercher et al., 2010), but also to promote growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the human gut and to reduce abundance of food-borne pathogens."

Another bonus of eating organic apples is that it means avoiding pesticides that are routinely sprayed on conventional fruit. So eat away! Microbes, fiber, and nutrients all in one small fruit!

Fun fact: The researchers write that apples are the most consumed fruit world-wide. Excerpts from Science Daily: An apple carries about 100 million bacteria -- good luck washing them off  ...continue reading "Excellent Reason To Eat Apples: The Bacteria"

Do you trust food labels? This past month several people have expressed doubts to me over the organic label found on many foods.  But actually the organic label on American grown foods is one that people can trust, and it means that a government agency (the US Department of Agriculture) has certified that the food was grown organically. Yes, there are standards for organic food.

The worst label on a food is "natural' - it is totally meaningless. View it as a marketing term and nothing more. I personally look for the organic label on all foods whenever possible, and I like meat and dairy products also labeled grass fed.

Here is a great article about some of the terms now used on food labels and what they mean. The food labels discussed are: organic, non-GMO, cage free, free range, pasture raised, grass-fed, and Fair Trade. I would add that I trust food labeled as organic from the USA, Canada, and Europe the most. Unfortunately many (most? almost all?) organic foods from China and Turkey may not really be organic.

Excerpts from the Washington Post: Why Food Reformers Have Mixed Feelings About Eco-Labels  ...continue reading "Can You Trust Organic and Other Food Labels?"

 There has been tremendous concern in recent years over pathogenic bacteria (such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli) found on raw fruits and vegetables. But what about nonpathogenic bacteria? Aren't some of the benefits of eating raw fruits and vegetables the microbes found on them? What actually is on them?

The following research using modern genetic analysis (16 S rRNA gene pyrosequencing) is from 2013, but very informative and the only study that I could find of its kind. The results suggest that humans are exposed to substantially different bacteria depending on the types of fresh produce they consume, with differences between conventionally and organically farmed varieties contributing to this variation.

While each of the 11 produce types studies harbored different microbial communities, the most common (abundant) across all samples were: Enterobacteriaceae [30% (mean)], Bacillaceae (4.6%), and Oxalobacteraceae (4.0%). Earlier studies also suggested that non-pathogenic microbes may interact with and inhibit microbial pathogens found on produce surfaces. Bottom line: eat a variety of raw fruits and vegetables to get exposed to a variety of non pathogenic microbes.

From Science Daily: Diverse bacteria on fresh fruits, vegetables vary with produce type, farming practices

Fresh fruit and vegetables carry an abundance of bacteria on their surfaces, not all of which cause disease. In the first study to assess the variety of these non-pathogenic bacteria, scientists report that these surface bacteria vary depending on the type of produce and cultivation practices. The results are published March 27 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jonathan Leff and Noah Fierer at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The study focused on eleven produce types that are often consumed raw, and found that certain species like spinach, tomatoes and strawberries have similar surface bacteria, with the majority of these microbes belonging to one family. Fruit like apples, peaches and grapes have more variable surface bacterial communities from three or four different groups. The authors also found differences in surface bacteria between produce grown using different farming practices.

The authors suggest several factors that may contribute to the differences they observed, including farm locations, storage temperature or time, and transport conditions. These surface bacteria on produce can impact the rate at which food spoils, and may be the source of typical microbes on kitchen surfaces. Previous studies have shown that although such microbes don't necessarily cause disease, they may still interact with, and perhaps inhibit the growth of disease-causing microbes. The results of this new research suggest that people may be exposed to substantially different bacteria depending on the types of produce they consume.

Excerpts of the actual study from PLoS One:  Bacterial Communities Associated with the Surfaces of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables can harbor large and diverse populations of bacteria. However, most of the work on produce-associated bacteria has focused on a relatively small number of pathogenic bacteria....Our results demonstrated that the fruits and vegetables harbored diverse bacterial communities, and the communities on each produce type were significantly distinct from one another. However, certain produce types (i.e., sprouts, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries) tended to share more similar communities as they all had high relative abundances of taxa belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae when compared to the other produce types (i.e., apples, peaches, grapes, and mushrooms) which were dominated by taxa belonging to the Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria phyla. ...Taken together, our results suggest that humans are exposed to substantially different bacteria depending on the types of fresh produce they consume with differences between conventionally and organically farmed varieties contributing to this variation.

Fresh produce, including apples, grapes, lettuce, peaches, peppers, spinach, sprouts, and tomatoes, are known to harbor large bacterial populations [1][7], but we are only just beginning to explore the diversity of these produce-associated communities. We do know that important human pathogens can be associated with produce (e.g., L. monocytogenes, E. coli, Salmonella), and since fresh produce is often consumed raw, such pathogens can cause widespread disease outbreaks [8][11]. In addition to directly causing disease, those microbes found in produce may have other, less direct, impacts on human health. Exposure to non-pathogenic microbes associated with plants may influence the development of allergies [12],and the consumption of raw produce may represent an important means by which new lineages of commensal bacteria are introduced into the human gastrointestinal system. 

Although variable, taxonomic richness levels differed among the eleven produce types with richness being highest on peaches, alfalfa sprouts, apples, peppers, and mushrooms and lowest on bean sprouts and strawberries (Fig. 1). Bacterial communities were highly diverse regardless of the produce type with between 17 and 161 families being represented on the surfaces of each produce type. However, the majority of these families were rare; on average, only 3 to 13 families were represented by at least two sequences per produce type.

Furthermore, pairwise tests revealed that the community composition on the surface of each produce type differed significantly from one another. Still, certain produce types shared more similar community structure than others. On average, tree fruits (apples and peaches) tended to share communities that were more similar in composition than they were to those on other produce types, and produce typically grown closer to the soil surface (spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers) shared communities relatively similar in composition. Surface bacterial communities on grapes and mushrooms were each strongly dissimilar from the other produce types studied.

An interesting small study of one family shows how quickly one can eliminate many pesticides from the body by switching to an all organic diet. One Swedish family of 2 adults (aged 40 and 39) and 3 children (aged 12, 10, and 3) who had been eating mainly conventional food were studied.

For the study they only ate conventionally grown food for one week and then they switched to an all organic diet for 2 weeks (fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, etc,). Urine was collected every morning from all family members, and a food diary was kept. Common pesticides and their metabolites were analyzed: atrazine, chlorpyrifos, 2.4-D, pyrethroids, MCPA, chlormequat chloride (CCC) etc.

However, the most commonly used pesticide in the world - glyphosate (Roundup) was not looked at. The results showed that pesticide levels were reduced very quickly once they started eating an all organic diet.

The report also mentioned that currently pesticide standards are only for one pesticide at a time, but people have exposure to many pesticides in daily life (foods, their environment, cleaning supplies, etc) - thus people are exposed to a chemical cocktail that we know very little about about - whether looking at short-term or long-term effects. Article (and video link) from The Sydney Morning Herald:

Family eats organic for just two weeks, removes nearly all pesticides from body

A Swedish family has shown just how quickly an organic diet change can rid the body of pesticides. In a fortnight-long experiment, the family of five - parents Anette and Mats, and kids Vendela, Evelina and Charlie - swapped their conventional diet for an organic one and found that just two weeks of eating an organic diet managed to rid their bodies of most traces of pesticides.

The video explaining the experiment, which was conducted by Swedish supermarket Coop and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. 

The researchers measured the levels of plant growth regulators chlormequat chloride, mepiquat, 3-PBA and cleaning agent TCP in urine samples taken from each family member before and after their two weeks of organic eating. Before the experiment, middle child Evelina's urine was showing nearly five nanograms of chlormequat chloride per millilitre. After eating only organic foods for two weeks, the chemical was unable to be detected in her sample. The most profound effects were found in toddler Charlie's samples. Despite his urine before the experiment showing high levels of all four of the chemicals, after the experiment none of the substances were detected.

The original 2015 report Coop Sverige AB, Report number U 5080, from the Swedish Environmental Research Institute: Human exposure to pesticides from food: A Pilot Study  ...continue reading "Eat Organic Foods to Quickly Lower the Pesticide Levels In Your Body"