Organic Violations!

The above picture was taken today October 6, 2011 around 8 a.m. at the Fry’s Market place on Watson Road, in Buckeye Arizona.  In the article below I only speak of one organic co-mingling violation but there are actually three co-mingling violations.  As you can see the plastic bags of yellow and orange carrots now separate the non organic green beans from the leeks, carrots and beets.  If you look above the packaged carrots you can see organic fennel lying next to a bowl of cut and wrapped sections of squash. Some of the fennel is actually swimming in the bowl of squash juice/water.  This is violation number two.  To the far right of the organic section is a pile of organic nectarines.  Next to the nectarines sits another bowl full of celeriac root and is co-mingling with the organic nectarines, violation number three.  I’m not sure why these other items were not separated and corrected as were the beans. The carelessness of the produce department is appalling and someone in management should be re-enrolled in vegetables 101.

Over the past several months I have visited a number of grocery stores wanting to see how they stack and display their so called “fresh” organic vegetables.  The most recent visit was to the Fry’s Marketplace on Watson Road in Buckeye, Arizona.  I spoke to one of the produce guys and asked him if he knew his store/produce section was in violation of the co-mingling ordinance under the USDA Organic Rules and Guidelines.  He told me he did in fact know about the violation and he was going to fix it today (Oct. 3, 2011).  The items in violation were leeks and beets.  I saw non organic green beans displayed next to certified organic leeks. Some of the beans were mixed together with the organic leeks and beets.  The produce guy told me since the beans were mixed together with the organic vegetables they could no longer be sold as organic and would be down graded as non organic and sold that way.  It’s my understanding when that happens all organic food is to be thrown out as green waste.  I wish I had my camera so I could have taken the picture of the violation, but I didn’t have it.  As long as this store has been open and every time I have been to the Fry’s Marketplace on Watson Road I have seen the co-mingling violation. It’s very easy to solve this problem, I said.  My suggestion would be to build a barrier of either packaged plastic items or high dividers to separate the food from touching each other or better yet, keep the organic section away from conventional produce altogether.  He asked me how I knew of the rules and I told him I farm and earlier in my career I sold and delivered my veggies to all of the Whole Food Stores in Maricopa County.  After several months of delivery I learned many of the big no-no’s including improper display and storage.  If the inspectors saw produce co-mingling, the stores would be fined and possibly have their organic sale certification suspended or lose their license.

If you are wanting to buy organic produce from any box store and you see non organic vegetables touching organic vegetables please be aware of what you might be bringing into your home.  Chemicals from the non organic vegetables can be rinsed off and onto the certified organic produce from the intermittent mist that is sprayed onto the veggies to keep them cold and hydrated.  By law non organic and organic fruit and vegetables must be kept separate at all times.  From shipping to walk in cooler storage to store display all items must stay away from each other.  Why?  Because the non organic vegetables can contaminate the organic.  These rules and guidelines are in place to prevent illness, contamination and possibly even death.

Upon another visit I asked a Fry’s employee who at the time was stocking apples, why does this store continue displaying the two very different products together and the lady told me that she didn’t know about it because it was not her department.  She was just filling in for an employee that couldn’t come to work that day.  I’ve asked other Fry’s employees and all of them either don’t care or don’t know about the rules.  How can the food source that is supposed to be protected and cared for by the employees stay protected if they do not perform their jobs to the standards they were hired for and how do they continue working for those box stores?  What does that say about management?  Store Ownership?

I take my food very seriously. When I go into a store, I have very high expectations that the food I am going to purchase will be safe and free of those things I don’t want to put into my body. I know I am not alone because I sell my wares to thousands of customers who feel the same way. I would go out on a limb to say that the USDA certified inspectors have not been to that Fry’s store for quite some time, maybe even years because it’s been that long of a time I have witnessed that violation. Why is it, that those people who don’t eat organically don’t bother to respect those who do eat organically?  The stores that violate organic rules should not be given a slap on the hand, they should pay a huge fine at the time the violation occurs.  If you think about it, it is the health aspect and lives these frivolous employees are putting in jeopardy.  The “what if’s” could prove deadly to an innocent person.  Just look at what is going on today.  Cantaloupes infected with listeria caused at least one death and spinach and other leafy greens contaminated with E. coli, you know what I’m saying? What if the spinach was in the place of the green beans or the cantaloupes……and they co-mingled with the organic leeks? Hmm!  If I haven’t convinced you yet to be apart of my farm, maybe this blog might change your mind, I hope so!  There are two things we need to have in our lives to stay strong and healthy, good water and pure food…….my farm has both; pure well water and all natural food.

I hope this article will help educate all who read this and may it assist you in your produce decisions.  If you have any questions or comments please send them to me through my blog.  I would really like to post as many as I can, maybe it will help catch the attention of all the box stores.  Also, don’t forget to sign up on my face book page.  Check out my CSA program, there are links at the top of my blog.