Farm Blog

Place Order
Watch Out For Local Suppliers Selling Fake Organic Food

Posted by: Trevor

April 18, 2014

Don't let yourself be tricked by false organic food claims. At least one significant local supplier is advertising food to its Vancouver customers as organic even though it very clearly is not, and the problem appears to be growing. This is sad because it deceives people and also undermines the integrity of the term Organic.

We began to notice the problem when we heard about a well-known "organic" delivery service which was promoting pork which they described as organic. We were immediately skeptical because we know there are very few certified organic pork farms in BC, and to our knowledge we are the only one in the greater Vancouver area. When we began to look further into the matter, we viewed their website and confirmed that they are calling certain pork products organic when in fact they are not organic at all.

At least one "organic" delivery service in the Lower Mainland is making false claims

In this particularly case, the "organic" delivery service is sourcing at least some of its pork from a Fraser Valley farm which raises their pigs inside barns and doesn't even claim to be organic. It is conventional pork. The pork is then advertised to consumers by the delivery service as "organic". Customers are being duped.

This is part of a much bigger problem in BC which has become very serious for all organic food consumers. Within the past few years a regulatory "loophole" was introduced which allowed BC farmers to claim they were "organic" even though they have no certification and there is no third-party verification of their claims. The loophole allows them to say their products are "organic" although they are prevented from using the term "certified organic". Most consumers don't understand the difference, so they are easily deceived. Kris Chand describes the problem in more detail here in this interview he gave the Parksville - Qualicum Beach News.

Why was this loophole introduced, and why hasn't it been closed? Very simply, the provincial government knows about the problem but so far has refused to fix it. They are the ones which regulate the term "organic" in BC and up until fairly recently the term was very tightly defined, much like the term "medical doctor" or any other regulated term. In order to call yourself organic, you had to be certified by a recognized certifying organization. But changes were introduced which loosened the controls. Was this done intentionally to undermine the organic movement? Yes or no, the damage is happening.

Today, there are hundreds of small producers in BC who are able to get away with claiming their food products are "organic" even if they're not certified as such. No one can actually know if these producers are actually complying with any organic standards, because they are not certified and have no third-party verification. So you just have to take their word for it. And in the case of the local delivery service which is falsely calling the pork they sell "organic" it is easily seen that they are deceiving their customers. Will any enforcement official make them stop? Almost certainly no.

Until the legislation gets fixed, the problem may get worse. As conventional farmers figure out there are few consequences to misusing the term "organic" they will increasingly do it --- just like they've already done with the word "natural" which has now become meaningless. This makes it impossible for true organic producers to compete, since non-organic farming is typically far cheaper. For example, a non-organic poultry or pork farm can often turn out meat for as little as half the price of a truly organic farm, because they use a pharmaceutically-centric, synthetically-driven, industrial "farming" model whose goal is cheap food at the expense of human, animal, and ecological health. If a producer can falsely claim "organic" status with no third-party validation and no consequences for standards-violations, then eventually the term becomes meaningless and the movement dies.

Therefore the only way for BC consumers to protect themselves is to be informed and ask questions. If someone is selling a product as "organic" then ask them a simple question:

"Who certified this as organic?"

The seller should be able to tell you the name of the organic organization which certified that the product is organic. Anyone who receives organic certification gets an organic certificate, too. If a producer has actually gone to the expense and hassle of being certified, they will be more than happy to tell you who certifies them and even show you their certificate if you want to see it.

But watch out for these sorts of responses:

"We're in-house certified." Translation: no one certifies them, they are making it up.

"We're certified by Canadian Quality Assurance." This is not an organic certification, it is a set of 'best-practices' protocols for industrial pork farmers who raise indoor barn-pigs.

"I don't know who certifies us." If they don't know who certifies them, they're not certified.

"Technically we're not certified but we're still 100% organic." There's no way of verifying their claim. If they really are organic, how come they don't get certified?

Small producers might respond "Well, we're not certified because it's too expensive" yet the fact is most certifying organizations in BC have a sliding fee scale which makes certification very affordable to new entrants. The expensive part of being an organic farm is not the certification, rather it's the cost of compliance, something a non-certified organic producer would have to adhere to anyways if they were truly organic. The "it's too expensive" excuse just doesn't add up.

Is the food you're buying actually certified organic?

While we're on the subject, here's another claim that is sometimes used by non-organic producers:

"Our meat is antibiotic free." Is it really? Ask them if they mean "therapeutic antibiotics" or "sub-therapeutic antibiotics". Therapeutic antibiotics are administered if the animal is acutely ill or injured. Conventional producers will often claim they are "antibiotic free" but what they really mean is they don't practice therapeutic antibiotic treatment of their animals when they are sick or hurt. Yet they still administer sub-therapeutic antibiotics in their feeds especially when the pork or poultry is very young, as a preventative low-dose medication.

This is why I frequently say "You've got to know your farmer" --- there are all kinds of claims being made and the only way to know the truth about your food is to get very, very close to it. The organic food movement has become a multi-billion dollar industry in North America. As a result, many food producers are tempted to misuse the term "organic" in order to make more money, even if it means making false claims. If they can take a non-organic food item and sell it as organic, they can sell it for a higher price. In BC, the only ones standing in their way in any meaningful sense are the dedicated consumers like you, who insist on asking the right questions.

If a product is certified organic, it will have a sticker-logo like one of these on it.

When you buy organic produce at the Farmers Market or you take the organic delivery service, make sure you ask the question: "Who certified that this is organic?" Get to know your farmer, and refuse to do business with producers who claim to be organic but aren't certified. By insisting on only buying organic food which has been certified, you are making sure your food dollars are going to true organic producers, and in this way you are ensuring that the organic movement in BC continues growing.

Thank you for supporting local, certified organic family farms.

Other Farm Blog Posts

November 7, 2020How to Get Enough Vitamin K2 In Your Diet
October 3, 2020The Secret to Optimizing Collagen Synthesis in Your Body
July 18, 2020Here is an Easy Way to Improve Your Sleep
July 4, 2020Do We Become What We Eat? Please Consider This
June 14, 2020A Delicious Way To Increase Your Selenium Intake
June 6, 2020Three Great Natural Sources of Vitamin D
May 31, 2020Nourishing Your Body with Natural Choline
February 15, 2019Is Organic Healthier? Study Shows Remarkable Benefits
January 27, 2018A Delicious Way To Boost Your Polyphenol Intake
September 11, 2017Better Than Garlic Butter, Whipped Lard Is So Good
March 17, 2016Chicken Bone Broth - A Healthy Start to Your Day
March 7, 2016Making Ultra-Nutritious Beef Back Ribs
February 25, 2016How To Make Super Healthy Pork Rinds
February 16, 2016A Delicious And Easy Way To Boost Your CoQ10 Intake
February 9, 2016How To Get Your Daily Dose Of Vitamin D From Pork
August 28, 2015Air-Chilled Chicken: 4 Reasons It's Better
March 19, 2015This Orphan Lamb Is Too Cute!
March 12, 2015These Fascinating Meat-Sheep Are New Additions To Our Farm
September 9, 2014These Pigs Are Having A Picnic In The Forest, Watch Them Having Fun
July 11, 2014Why Happy Cows Love Rotational Grazing... Watch As They Get Moved
June 18, 2014Watch As These Happy Chickens Enjoy Life, On The Grass And In The Sun
June 15, 2014She Went Vegan To Cure Her IBS
June 4, 2014Just Born: New Piglets, And They're Absolutely Adorable
May 20, 2014Alpaca's Getting Haircuts, Just In Time For Summer
May 11, 2014Baby Calves Galore, Momma Cow Has Twins
May 1, 2014Pigs On Spring Pasture At Sumas Mountain Farms
April 24, 2014Could West Coast Maple Syrup Be A Nutrient-Dense Superfood?
April 23, 2014How To Make Your Own West Coast Maple Syrup
April 16, 2014How to enjoy the benefits of wild Oregon grapes and thimbleberries
April 11, 2014A Traditional Festive Roasted Ham, With The Bone-In
April 2, 2014The astonishing super-nutrition of red marrow beef bones
December 10, 2013A Christmas Pig's Head Feast
November 20, 2013Buying your chicken in the US? It could be imported from China
November 14, 2013Rethinking seafood: 4 alarming reasons why it may be unhealthy
October 15, 2013Thanksgiving at Sumas Mountain Farms
September 17, 2013Lard: the momentum just keeps growing
August 21, 2013Another big health reason to buy organic, grass-only beef
July 25, 2013How to avoid dangerous fluoride levels in non-organic food
July 18, 2013Why grass-only beef has yellow fat, and why it's better
July 9, 2013Shill scientists still bashing organic
May 6, 2013Organic mixed farms vs. conventional monocultures
April 19, 2013Why buying locally produced food isn't enough
April 1, 2013More reasons to love, experience lard
March 25, 2013Dandelion chickens on spring pasture
March 19, 2013Bees and bugs: pollinators in action on our farm
October 30, 2012Small-scale family farms under attack by local governments
October 10, 2012CKNW news "The Bill Good Show" interviews Sumas Mountain Farms
October 8, 2012CBC television news visits Sumas Mountain Farms
October 3, 2012Why organic, local, small scale agriculture is healthier & safer
August 8, 2012Reflections on Lard - and vitamins A, D, E & K
June 27, 20126 reasons why pastured pigs are healthier and happier
June 25, 2012The best meatballs I've ever had
June 20, 2012Why organic farms are the best way to increase "green space"
June 18, 2012This tastes so good: Bacon-stuffed Pork Chops
June 11, 2012Cows on spring pasture
June 4, 2012Making parks more useful --- food security 101
May 29, 2012Reconstructing local food economies
May 22, 2012Why our eggs are totally soy-free
April 30, 2012A cow's life at Sumas Mountain Farms
April 24, 2012New Rideshare service allows customers to "carpool" their orders
April 21, 2012Now in stock: certified organic grass-only beef
April 18, 2012Reprieve: no GMO pigs in the food supply... for now
April 12, 2012Is food really too cheap?
March 21, 2012Easter hams are now in stock; more beef in 4 weeks
March 12, 2012Pork tenderloin is now back in stock: soy-free, certified organic, pastured, heritage breed
March 5, 2012Save the bees: What we're doing this summer
February 27, 2012Producing and preparing your own food
February 20, 2012Bee wars: the next frontier in global food dominance
February 13, 2012False organic claims: How some local food-suppliers are misleading consumers...
February 6, 2012The best way to avoid eating Roundup
January 30, 2012Tapping big-leaf maple trees for sap
January 23, 2012Snowing on the farm
January 16, 2012What buying local food in the Lower Mainland actually looks like
January 9, 2012Pig's head: a healthy, traditional food
January 2, 2012Why local, organic food is important to our family
December 26, 2011Lard, Raw Milk, and Organ Meat: a formula for optimal health?
December 19, 2011Livin' Lardge: rendering pork lard, for health
December 9, 2011Organic pastured pork is now in-stock... and it's soy-free
December 6, 2011Maple Sap as an alternative to bottled water
December 1, 2011Soil: the wealth of nations