Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Organic growth

Last week the nation's largest grocery chain, Kroger, announced that it would be adding lots of organic products to its line of house brands. By the end of 2007, Kroger will add 60 new certified organic products to its "Private Selection" label. The announcement comes as the USDA is considering a rule change to weaken the organic standards to allow food processors to include a list of 38 non-organic substances in "certified organic" food products.

Just a week before, Kroger had already announced that it would be removing all milk produced with synthetic hormones from its shelves, due to - you guessed it - consumer demand. Consumers frequently cite synthetic hormones for their shift to organic milk - and milk is frequently the first organic product that consumers try when they begin buying organic products.

Consumers concerned about unscrupulous foreign producers, synthetic hormones, GMO's, pesticides and other pollutants in their foods, are changing the grocery shelves by voting with their dollars. The organic foods market is growing consistently by as much as 20% annually, according to the Organic Trade Association. Consumers are concerned about the purity of their foods, and those who can are directing their dollars towards cleaner food choices. (See PESTed's recent article, Organic on a Budget, for tips on eating organic without breaking the bank).

As far as this writer can tell, while consumers are paying close attention to all the red flags on food production, the federal government is out to lunch. Country-of-origin labeling? GMO's? Synthetic growth hormones? Atrazine? 2,4-D? Yawn, we'll let the market decide.

Luckily, grocers are paying attention - and responding. I think I'll toast Kroger's decision with a certified organic beer.

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