The typical American supermarket is the envy of the world: in most neighborhood grocery stores, we have comprehensive and constant access to all food staples. And we have a dizzying area of choices; next time you are in a grocery store, count the numbers of different salad dressing and cereal products and you’ll be there for hours. But the dark side of all those choices is that this competition between food suppliers for a spot on our dinner table can lead some to make claims that are not true in order to get our attention while cutting corners and feeding our family ingredients that are not actually what the suppliers say they are on the label. One common way in which this arises is in the exploding area of “organic food” and whether food that is labeled as “organic” is indeed organic. In fact, stories abound of food products being fraudulently labeled as organic, and consumers are fighting back with lawsuits against suppliers for making fraudulent claims about such products.

Food Producers Frequently Flout the USDA’s Organic Certification Program

The USDA does indeed at least purport to regulate what food products can be labeled organic and which cannot, but the apparently lax enforcement of these standards may be doing more harm than good as it may be giving consumers a false sense of security that such claims are indeed being scrutinized by government watchdogs. As was reported in a 2015 article entitled “The Colossal Hoax of Organic Agriculture” in Forbes magazine, “Few organic consumers are aware that organic agriculture is a ‘trust-based’ or ‘faith-based’ system.” What this means is that it is often the case that food producers can simply call something “organic” and no one will verify this.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on the massive problems with organic food certification in 2014. The article reported that the USDA contracts with 81 different certification agents to conduct inspections of the more than 25,000 organic food producers in the United States, and that internal audits showed that more than 60{84f716e74bb4cf558e94f93b8e592911f55b2b904af6e049c059042e89880719} of the agents audited in a given year failed to follow USDA’s basic certification procedures such as conducting onsite inspections of food producers. The article also reported that over a certain period, “40{84f716e74bb4cf558e94f93b8e592911f55b2b904af6e049c059042e89880719} of these 81 certifiers have been flagged by the USDA for conducting incomplete inspections; 16{84f716e74bb4cf558e94f93b8e592911f55b2b904af6e049c059042e89880719} of certifiers failed to cite organic farms’ potential use of banned pesticides and antibiotics; and 5{84f716e74bb4cf558e94f93b8e592911f55b2b904af6e049c059042e89880719} failed to prevent potential commingling of organic and nonorganic products, according to the Journal investigation.”

Bringing a Food Fraud Claim

Consumers are fighting back against the fraudulent, unethical, and even dangerous practices of food producers passing off nonorganic products as organic (and often charging twice as much in the process). A few examples include consumers suing:

Farmers themselves, no doubt upset that unethical organic producers are making the process worse for those producers who do follow the rules, have even sued the USDA for appointing unqualified individuals to oversee the organic certification process.
If you believe you have purchased a food product that was falsely advertised as being organic, then you may have a claim under California state and federal law. Contact Claremont trial attorney Farris Ain, who represents consumers throughout Southern California, for a free consultation your options for financial recovery.