'Organic' Foods May Not Be as Pure as You Think

USDA's label increasingly meaningless as agri-business pushes in
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2009 8:45 AM CDT
Bottles of Heinz 'organic' tomato ketchup are on display inside Costco in Mountain View, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
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(Newser) – Demand for organic food has boomed into a $23 billion-a-year industry, but consumers who often pay twice as much for food with the coveted label aren't always getting what they expect. The criteria for obtaining a "USDA Organic" certification have been relaxed in recent years, with ostensibly organic products from cheese to beer containing synthetic elements, non-organic ingredients, and even pesticides, reports the Washington Post.

Corporations such as Kraft, Kellogg, and Coca-Cola have lobbied to get 245 different non-organic substances permitted in so-called "organic" food, a threefold increase since USDA labeling began in 2002. The trend has fueled growing complaints and prompted the USDA's inspector general's office to widen an investigation into the national standards. Critics say current conditions favor big businesses over truly organic farmers, many of whom are now being pushed out of the market.