The Case of the Mislabeled Case
Wal-Mart accused of incorrectly labeling organic products
Ah, Wal-Mart — always reliable for some good old-fashioned eco-drama. This week, the Cornucopia Institute, an activist group representing small farmers, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that accuses Wal-Mart of incorrectly labeling or otherwise misrepresenting various products as organic in some stores. Visiting a dozen stores in four Midwestern states, the group found several troubling misrepresentations. In one case, “all-natural” yogurt was labeled organic; in several stores, non-organic products were residing in an organic-designated cooler. “We live and die by the reputation of the organic label,” says Cornucopia cofounder and organic farmer Mark Kastel. “If Wal-Mart cheapens it, we all lose.” Wal-Mart pooh-poohed the accusations and defended its organic offerings. Nevertheless, the USDA has opened an investigation into the retailer’s organic-labeling practices; violations of labeling standards can carry a fine of $10,000 per instance.