Sunday, December 16, 2007

It makes you wonder how long...

It took before anybody noticed. Once again organic dairies (the big 'uns, of course) are being charged with selling regular old milk as organic.
The lawsuits seek class-action status on behalf of people who bought the milk and ask for their money back as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Several of the companies declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment, but Target, of Minneapolis, said it stands behind Aurora's organic milk.

"This lawsuit is inconsistent with the fact that the USDA has reviewed and confirmed the organic certification of Aurora dairy farms and its products," the company said in a statement. [More - BTW, there is an interesting comment chain on this article. People have strong feelings about food.]

Other reports about this news include the more salient facts, I think.
Organic milk is one of the fastest-growing segments in the already fast-growing organic market. U.S. retail sales of organic dairy products totaled $2.14 billion in 2005, the most recent data available, up from 24 percent in 2004, according to the Organic Trade Association. JP Morgan predicts that the organic dairy sector will post sales of $3.5 billion by 2010. [More]

As I see it, the growth of the organic market will continue to make it an alluring target for litigation. Add in the nebulous regulation and non-differentiability of the stuff (you can't take a sample at the store and say it's organic or not) and this possible profit center begins to look less and less attractive.

It is curious too, we haven't been reading about widespread reactions, diseases, allergies, plagues, etc. among the consumers who have been drinking the perhaps not-too-organic milk for some time now.

Still, big names like Safeway means the possibility of big settlements. I have seen no evidence of efforts to double-check smaller operations. The presumption of the right appearance (quaintness) as proof of ethereal qualities like organic is strong.

A large scale organic market may never be realized here simply because this market debate is about large scale, not organic.

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