Sunday, February 7, 2010

This article is posted on one of my other blogs, but I thought it was a good topic for this one, too. The original post was sparked by an article I read about how Dean Foods "quietly removed" the word organic from the label of its line of Silk Soy products. I identified with the headline because I was a victim of exactly what the article was written about. (The link on this blog is listed at the menu on the right but it won't stay up forever so you can read the article at for as long as it stays posted there. If it is removed, look at for articles written by By BARRY SHLACHTER )

Because I try to stay 90-95% organic in my choices about food, cosmetics, etc. I try alot of products, always looking for quality and good value. I stay away from anything organic from China, sadly because I just don't trust them yet. Ditto for anything that is not labeled with what I consider to be a legitimate organic certifying body for foreign goods. There are a lot of non-domestic "organic" products finding their way onto our supermarket shelves because frankly, there is not enough organic agriculture, etc. in the U.S. to keep up with the demand. Even though conventional agriculture continually tries to discredit organics, it is still far and away, even counting in the cheaters, way safer and healthier food. Safer for not just people but for the whole planet.

Anyway, it is what I believe, it is my life and I am relentless in my search for quality products. Oh, by the way, did I mention that I own an organic farm and I actually grow most of my own food, make my own cosmetics and generally do not routinely shop at the supermarket for anything except for things I can't produce myself. Soy milk is one of those things. So, now for the reason for this information and how it relates to soy products.

I don't do dairy. I am allergic to milk - not lactose intolerant- but truly allergic, with hives, stomach upset, everything you'd expect with an allergy. I passed this allergy onto my kids, although mine is more severe. Bottom line is that soy and alternatives to milk products has been a way of life for us. Soy has always been my product of choice. I drink it, cook with it, put it on my cereal. I never developed a taste goat milk and while I have been known to make my own almond milk, by the time I made enough for our usage, it would cost me a fortune so I stick with soy.

In my search for product I liked, I settled on Silk Organic Soy Milk. It has passed all my taste tests and I just like the product line. I have been buying it for years. White Wave, the company who produces Silk, is owned by Dean Foods and they have about 3/4 of the market share of these products anyway but it is a superior product, in my opinion. Buying these products from this conglomerate is one of the compromises that I make in my food choices. I am not buying local, I am not buying from a small family company and that is a bit of a sticking point, I admit. My conscience also tells me that this corporate giant (Dean) is not to be totally trusted but since I know that going in, it is my free choice to buy their products. For some reason that makes me feel a little better, knowing that they are not screwing me over, without my knowledge. I am allowing them to do it and that I think is called consent.

Recently, however, they confirmed my belief in the "not to be trusted" scenario. They quietly deleted the word "ORGANIC" from the label of most their products. No change was made at all to the carton but the much reduced organic line (I have only seen 2 products) is now in completely new and different green cartons. So if stocked on the same shelves, the organic product would stand out and that was the good news.

The bad news, unfortunately,that is not what happened. What did happen is that they didn't bother to tell retailers about the changes, so the retailers, in turn, continued get the same products they had been getting. Kind of a grocery store version of "don't ask, don't tell", much like what is going on with the unlabeled genetically engineered foods on the grocer's shelves.

Supermarkets don't work like they did 10-15 years ago, when the section manager actually made the decisions about products. Now the vendors just come in, place product and whatever they deem to be selling is what ends up on your grocers shelves. That is why there is such a limited selection of organic products in many of our local markets. There is no one who really knows anything about these products making any decisions. Decisions are made based on numbers on a page, not on customer demand. The numbers are calculates on sales in the store but if the store has no product to sell, how can those numbers reflect what customers might actually want. And as complacent consumers, we just accept that as the way it is.

When someone has been buying the exact same product, week after week, for several years, it is human nature to stop reading the label. Because nothing else changed on the cartons of Silk Soy, only the removal of the word organic, I didn't even notice that it wasn't there, until I got home from the market one day. For some reason, I was looking at the back of the carton and I noticed that the green "CERTIFIED ORGANIC" label was missing. Imagine my chagrin, because I have no idea how long it had not been there. I was furious to say the least. AND not only was the word "ORGANIC" removed, there is no disclaimer anywhere on the latest carton I purchased that says that it is made from non-GMO soybeans, which only incited my ire further. (To be fair in this tirade, that issue has since been corrected and the cartons now say that Silk is made with non-GMO soybeans grown domestically).

I immediately got online and looked up Silk Soy and discovered several articles written by other people who were just as angry as myself. I did find information about the much reduced organic line now offered by Silk but that hardly assuages my disgust for this company and their tactics. While I realize that the onus of responsibility for knowing what I am purchasing falls on me and only me, but this company's obvious "sneak attack" on one of their own organic products is unconscionable in my universe. Yes, the new cartons are bright green, easily discernible from the non-organic products, IF they are stocked on the shelves. It was a sneaky bait and switch as far as I am concerned but I hate to admit that I was one of those people who was duped by all this.

I have not stopped buying the non-organic Silk Soy products, because I can't find anything from the organic line at any of my limited sources. A couple of the local markets have their own lines of organic soy products now and the label says they are domestically grown, certified organic (non-GMO), although they are not as good as Silk Soy. I guess, at least for now, I will have to trust that the National Organic Program is doing its job. The NOP has the strictest organic guidelines on the planet at this point in time, but with lobbyists and politicians having a say in what happens at the USDA, who knows how long that will stay true.