Critics of the organic industry will argue that it's not well regulated. And there's reason to be skeptical with news circulating about companies evading compliance. However, many organic companies are good-intentioned and true to the organic philosophy. There is a finite number of companies out there that have misled organic consumers with the only goal in mind of capitalizing on the growing organic industry. But until legislation and enforcement of this fledgling industry are fully matured, It's important to consider an additional facet in assessing the quality of organic foods. The answer is rooted in looking at the business philosophy of the parent company for their organic subsidiaries.
Picking out the best quality organic products has been more difficult in the past. However in 2012, a landmark consumer-led ballot measure in California known as Prop 37 was put to vote. While this measure for mandatory labeling of GMO's was narrowly defeated by well-funded opposition, it has given the public a view of which companies supported it ... and also a comprehensive database of corporations that only have financial interests in mind. The bottom line is, without full transparency in food labeling, we need to also look at their record for corporate ethics and for supporting consumer health. If they're cheating others, they're likely misleading the consumers too. Beyond Organic's Organic Trust WebApp helps you make the best shopping choices. Product ratings are based on its independent certifications and the company's records.
Beyond Organic's Organic Trust WebApp
Our rating system:
|♦♦♦♦♦||Company and its brand represent the organic philosophy in every respect and holds multiple certifications|
|♦♦♦♦||Company/ brand represent the organic philosophy and has maintained consumer trust through its actions|
|♦♦♦||Company/ brand is a solid player in the organic industry. It may have been scrutinized due to parent company ownership or use of controversial ingredients|
|♦♦||Company has exhibited behavior to decrease consumer trust, and it has not shown public support for any organic initiatives|
|♦||Company has incurred multiple infractions to betray consumer trust.|
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Common signs or loopholes found in lower quality organic products:
- "Natural flavorings" or other ambiguous ingredients may include controversial ingredients.
- Private label brands and companies without transparency in sourcing can more easily hide their farming and processing operations. For example, companies may import organic ingredients from a foreign country which holds lesser standards (such as China and South American countries) than products certified organic in the US. Certain consumers may prefer to buy based on country of origin.
- Humane treatment is expected for organic livestock. Some animal husbandry practices may be unethical (including overuse of antibiotics), but not necessarily illegal or enforced.
- Lack of good manufacturing practices. For instance - if the packaging says, "Produced in a facility that also processes soy", there is the possibility of cross-contamination and should be avoided by those with allergies. Also, the phrase "May contain ..." usually means it does contain that ingredient.
- Absence of Non-GMO Project label may mean that GMO contamination is undetermined or present.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA or ARA) added to dairy/ dairy alternatives needs a close look. Some products use synthetic omega-3's.
- Use of packaging that contains carcinogens such as BPA.
- Product is certified organic by certifiers known to have looser standards. Companies with low quality products are more likely to seek certification through QAI, Oasis, Natrue, and Ecocert. This is just an indicator, as some reputable companies may go through QAI as well.
- Look deeper into product claims and terms like "natural", "free range", etc. that aren't regulated the way most people would expect. The Mayo Clinic summarizes their true meanings very nicely.