The Cornucopia Institute, a not-for-profit, has filed a complaint against Target, claiming it misrepresented a product as organic in advertisements. This was filed Tuesday with the National Organic Program, Office of Compliance:
"Target Corporation advertised Silk soymilk in newspapers with the term "organic" pictured on the carton's label, when in fact the product's manufacturer, Dean Foods' White Wave division, has been sourcing this product line with conventional soybeans. The newspaper ads potentially reached millions of consumers in the Midwest, and possibly nationwide, with the false representation. Additionally, The Cornucopia Institute has transaction records for purchase of the 'natural' conventional) Silk soymilk that was promoted by Target Corporation as organic."
Target didn't return WalletPop's calls seeking comment by press time.
Cornucopia admits that the mislabeling could be a mistake by Target.
According to Cornucopia's Mark Kastel, Silk quietly transitioned from an "organic" to "natural" label this spring, but didn't bother to tell the public or even suppliers. Target's mislabeling of the product in ads could be just a mistake, says Kastle, and Cornucopia wants it removed from future ads and a correction run for any it might be too late to change.
Choosing healthy food is confusing enough without deceptive labeling. Just figuring out the difference between organic and natural is tough.
Here's a quick breakdown: Organic is regulated by the government and natural is not, meaning the natural label is pretty subjective.
Cornucopia investigates and ranks farms and their organic practices. Small, family farms are more likely to follow proper protocols with free range, grass fed cattle that produce dairy products certified organic. Large factory farms have a harder time meeting these requirements, according to Kastel, particularly when it comes to soy products. Factory farms often source from China, where ingredients are proving to suspect.
Target is by no means alone on this issue. Cornucopia has uncovered mislabeled and misrepresented products in retailers all over the place. The notable thing is how different retailers have responded.
When Aurora, a supplier for store brand dairy products to multiple retailers was found to be in willful violation of organic laws, Target's response was to stand by its supplier of Archer Farms milk, even though the validity of its organic status was in question.
Executives from Publix, on the other hand, sought out small farmers and made personal visits to make sure conditions were met and the products authentically organic, according Kastel.