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Five Top Supermarkets Sued for False Organic Labeling

Five Top Supermarkets Sued for False Organic Labeling

"That's not even close to the reality of where this milk was coming from. These cows are all penned in factory-confinement conditions."
-Steve Berman, a Seattle lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs, responding to the idyllic pastoral conditions depicted on some of the milk cartons.

December 14, 2007 —

Five of the nations largest food retailers face suit over the mislabeling of supposedly "organic" milk sold in their stores. Wal-Mart, Target, Safeway, Costco, and Wild Oats have all been named in the suits, which follow eight other lawsuits filed in different states against Aurora Organic Dairy, the supplier of the milk. The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit small-farm advocacy group first raised questions about Aurora last year, in a report that lead the USDA to threaten Aurora with the loss of its organic certification if changes weren't made.

The lawsuit contends that such threats prove the milk being sold prior to 2007 was not, in fact, organic. It charges that Aurora, one of nation's largest USDA certified organic dairies, willfully violated more than a dozen rules in the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act. Each of the stores named in the suits packaged the milk under their own brand names — Kirkland in the case of Costco, Archer Farms in the case of Target, etc. — and in doing so became, in the eyes of the plaintiffs, legally liable for the quality of the milk.

Predictably, Target disagrees:

It is disappointing that these types of lawsuits are attempting to override the USDA and regulate the organic industry and retailers with their own beliefs of what constitutes an organic product.

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