The great thing about consumer sentiment about organic food is that it appears to be unprompted. Marketers are not making false claims as to nutrition, calories, et cet. But when consumers hear organic, they see “better.” It is what it is; somehow, a heckuva step up from non-organic.
But wait. Just as spinmeisters are polishing the golden halo of organic food, another uncooperative advocacy group is pointing out what they consider flaws in the regulation of organic fruit.
In the past week, I received this e-mail about the use of antibiotics in apple and pear production. From the news release:
Portland, OR—Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, Food & Water Watch, and the Center for Food Safety are urging the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to discontinue the use of antibiotics in organic apple and pear production, citing the potential undermining of the integrity of the organic label and threats to public health and consumer expectations. The NOSB—which meets in Portland, Oregon, this week—will vote on a petition to extend the use of oxytetracyline beyond the existing expiration date of October 21, 2014.
New data from a poll commissioned by Consumer Reports confirms that most consumers do not know that the USDA organic label can be found on foods produced with antibiotics and don’t believe they should be allowed to carry that label if antibiotics were used. Specifically:
• When asked whether antibiotics are used to treat disease in apple and pear trees, two-thirds (68 percent) of people said they don’t know, 17 percent said they don’t think they are, and 15 percent said that antibiotics are used.
• When told that apple and pear trees can be sprayed with antibiotics to treat disease and then asked whether fruit from these trees should be allowed to have an “organic” label, more than half--54 percent--said they don’t think they should be labeled as organic. Only 11 percent of thought they should be labeled as organic, and slightly more than one-third (35 percent) answered that they don’t know if they should be labeled organic.