Walmart, Target, Costco, Wild Oats Sued For Selling Fake Organic Milk

The Aurora Dairy controversy has spread to the retailers, as lawsuits seeking class-action status have be filed alleging “that Costco Wholesale Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Safeway Inc. and Wild Oats Markets Inc. sold Aurora’s milk under their own in-house brand names.”

Aurora itself is currently being sued by consumers in 27 states for selling milk labeled “organic” that was not produced in accordance with National Organic Program regulations. Aurora Dairy denies that the milk was non-organic.

“Any lawsuits claiming the milk we were selling was not organic have no merit,” a spokesperson told the Associated Press.

Lawsuits Allege Milk Wasn’t Organic [AP]
(Photo:Getty)

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  1. SeraSera says:

    Wild Oats but not Whole Foods?

    Huh.

  2. ancientsociety says:

    So it’s now the retailer’s responsibility to make sure they’re “certified Organic”?

    Last I checked, there are companies that deal exclusively with this and, if anyone should be held accountable, it is the certifier (as well as the manufacturer).

  3. char says:

    Of course, Auroran isn’t really different then horizon. Even if Horizon isn’t breaking the statutes, they are both violating the spirit of organic. Not sure that means anything anymore.

    Ahh well, the real answer is to find someone you can look into the eye and trust who you buy your products from.

  4. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    The OCA (Organic Consumers’ Association) is calling for a boycott of Aurora for keeping cows in “concentration camp”-like conditions:

    [www.democracyinaction.org]

    The boycott extends to Dean Foods’ White Wave tofu and Silk soymilk because the soybeans imported for these products come from China and Brazil where labor and environmental abuses are common.

  5. num1skeptic says:

    i only drink orgasmic milk. straight from the cows tit. tom green style.

  6. milqtost says:

    I don’t get what labor conditions have to do with a product being organic?

  7. AD8BC says:

    I suddenly feel like drinking Milk again… where can you get Aurora milk?

  8. headon says:

    Define Organic in a sentence:
    We can charge the wackos more if we sell them stuff that is organic.

  9. num1skeptic says:

    i’m a supporter of cloned meat!

  10. m4ximusprim3 says:

    While I don’t condone selling fake organic products, the whole organic food certification system is undeniably broken.

    Certification organizations such as CCOF in california often have multiple levels of “organicness” (Wine can be either “organic” or “made from organically grown grapes”, the latter meaning that after you pick the grapes you can throw in all the chemicals you want).

    Until there are concise guidelines for organic food production which aren’t controlled by state-specific private organizations, these type of problems won’t cease.

    Knowing all of this, it’s still good to make the effort to buy organic products. Most producers at least attempt to make healthier, better products.

  11. ancientsociety says:

    @headon: Hey, you might enjoy ingesting chemicals and preservatives. Me? Not so much.

  12. darkclawsofchaos says:

    so… by the definition of organic, I can get that stuff of my girlfriend then? I pretty sure there were no steriod/antibiotic use and its free!

  13. realjen01 says:

    i think people just need to drink more water. that is all.

  14. Charles Duffy says:

    @headon: Heh. For milk and meat, at least, there’s a real and significant enough quality difference to survive double-blind test conditions.

    I’m no hippie, but the steaks from Bastrop Cattle Company (local, grass-fed beef, inside driving range from my house if I don’t want to pay the insane markups to buy from a distributor) are dramatically better than what’s sold in the supermarket. It’s not the word “organic” I’m willing to pay for, but the increase in quality which tends to come in the same package.

  15. scampy says:

    @headon:

    Exactly. Organic is nothing but a scam to get green hippies to try and be “natural” They pay more for the very same things we NORMAL people eat. “Organic” food tastes exactly the same as normal food and we have been eating normal food for 100 years. The very definition of organic is anything containing carbon. Therefor ALL food is organic. Now if they want to market something as pesticide free thats a different story

  16. uricmu says:

    There’s a saying: “Regular veggies are sprayed daytime, Organic veggies are sprayed at night”

  17. UpsetPanda says:

    We can’t do a lot of organic at my house because it’s so expensive, but we try to do organic dairy and organic veggies when the price difference isn’t as much. Organic dairy is justifiable to me because for some reason, organic milk lasts longer than regular milk so rather than buy one gallon of regular milk and not get done with it in time, and let it goes to waste, I buy a gallon of organic and it just lasts longer.

  18. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @ancientsociety: “So it’s now the retailer’s responsibility to make sure they’re “certified Organic”?”

    The retailers bought the milk, branded it as their own, then sold it. Since they said it was theirs, they should be responsible for it.

    @darkclawsofchaos: “so… by the definition of organic, I can get that stuff of my girlfriend then?”

    I used to get organic milk that way, but two kids were enough, so I can’t get any more.

  19. JustinAche says:

    I’ve actually been trying to get away from most chemicals all together…I’m not a hippie freak, and I do my fair share of polluting on the motorcycle and non-compact-hybrid-gas-guzzling-car, but I can taste the difference in true organic crap, I stopped using fabric softener, ect….it’s the little things that are making my life more enjoyable

  20. Shadowfire says:

    @Charles Duffy: I found “organic” chicken to be tasteless, tough, and nasty. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and gone back to my old meat factory chicken.

    I can’t comment on the beef, but it seems like you’re kinda tainted your “evidence,” being that the organic is local, versus your supermarket. The meat you get at a local shop (especially a butcher) is always better than the supermarket, regardless of an organic tag.

  21. SuffolkHouse says:

    Very funny. Why? Because I shop at WalMart and saw the organic milk. It was almost half the cost of Silk. I didn’t believe it was organic, and never fed it to my kid.

    You just can’t pretend you are getting quality. Assume the worst when you buy the cheapest.

  22. DallasDMD says:

    @scampy: It may be, in some circumstances, of limited value, but its not a scam. Its a federally regulated label.

    I buy organic wherever possible to avoid excess pesticides, chemicals, and GM ingredients.

    I can definitely say some organic products taste better, but thats my judgement.

  23. Jasmo says:

    If you are buying organic milk at Wal-Mart, you’re missing the point.

  24. latemodel says:

    Same scam as “free range”. My sister went to a turkey farm to get a “free range” bird for T-giving and was sad to find out “free range” means they got to spend th last 15 minutes of their lives outside in the Sun. Live fast, die tasty.

  25. bohemian says:

    The organic milk we can get locally tastes vastly different than the non-organic. The other people in our house could give a rat’s ass if milk is organic or not but want it because it tastes like milk rather than like chalky water. I started buying it because regular milk has something in it that makes me throat start to itch.

    I can’t stand Horizon though, it tastes like the carton.

  26. azgirl says:

    Bovine growth hormone and antibiotics given to cows are not good for them, and certainly not good for us.. and I agree on the fabric softener– it was giving me rashes for years, and once I stopped using it- poof- no rashes… white vinegar all the way- it is better and loads and loads cheaper…

  27. CyGuy says:

    @CaffeinatedSquint: “Organic dairy is justifiable to me because for some reason, organic milk lasts longer than regular milk so rather than buy one gallon of regular milk”

    Most (but not all) Organic Milk is treated with UHT (Ultra-High Temperature) Pasteurization. You’ve probably also noted that they come in half-gallon cartons with a plastic bottle-top for pouring. This is a sterilization process which is more thorough than typical Pasteurization, and thus the milk will often keep up to six weeks instead of two.

    Note, however, that some organic milk, including some I bought at Trader Joe’s last month, is treated only with regular Pasteurization and lasted only the typical two weeks.

    There is also milk which isn’t certified organic which is treated with UHT Pasteurization, notably Lactose-Free varieties are typically UHT.

  28. ShadowFalls says:

    @ancientsociety:

    It is when they slap their own name on it. They are responsible for their own in-house brands, they may have been misled, that is their choice to sue the one who sold it to them who misled them.

  29. AnneCA says:

    @latemodel: Not quite, since, as mentioned up-thread, there is a governmentally-sanctioned definition of “organic,” and you can’t wear the label if you don’t meet those criteria. However, “free-range”? Can mean whatever the heck they want it to mean. Caveat Emptor.

  30. gingerCE says:

    Nowadays I drink only organic milk–mostly because in my opinion, regular milk tastes like crap. I’ve tried lots of different brands of organic milk and some are just plain yucky.

    Honestly, Costco Organic milk tastes like crap (aka regular milk) as does Safeway O’s Organic milk–yucky. Horizon is hit or miss (sometimes okay, sometimes bad). I don’t like the organic milk they sell at Wal-mart–can’t remember the brand but it doesn’t taste like good organic milk.

    The best and most consistently best tasting milk is the organic milk at Trader Joe’s (my bottle says it’s from northern California’s coast) and Strauss’s Organic milk. Both are usually excellent–also Organic Valley is fine but I prefer the other two more.

  31. Juliekins says:

    *sigh* I tried to get on the local organic milk bandwagon, but my husband complained that it tasted “weird.” I’m like “yeah, it tastes like MILK.” I eventually relented and now we’re back to the chalky water.

  32. Michael Belisle says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: What about your girlfriend’s feed; is it organic? And does she have access to pasture? Remember that “access” and “pasture” are wide open terms.

    As for the lawsuit, I don’t subscribe to the argument that a large corporation can’t be organic. Since the USDA [www.nytimes.com]“>dismissed the complaint against Aurora, the lawsuit is going to have a tough time demonstrating merit. That the USDA required Aurora to make changes is evidence that the system works. Maybe it’ll keep the pressure on Aurora to continue improving, but it’s not going to stop them from selling milk labeled as organic.

    And it’s certainly not going to protect what’s left of the family farm. Corporations already figured it out:
    1. Certify products as organic.
    2. Profit!

  33. Michael Belisle says:

    Wow, that link didn’t work at all. Let me try again: [www.nytimes.com]

  34. Shepherd says:

    @scampy: If the very definition of organic is “made of carbon” then we should be labeling charcoal briquettes as organic? I don’t think so because we’re talking about the USDA National Organic Program certification, not Organic Chemistry.

    If I see that label, I should be able to trust that the producer has satisfied requirements and retailers should realize by now that it is in their best interest to confirm products sold aren’t misleading customers. That’s “taking it seriously”.

  35. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Just as a point of information, I recently bought a share in a local, organic CSA (a cooperative farm). I’m not going to be required to actually “volunteer” (some do require this). I did the calculations, and based on what I’ll get in my share each week, I’ll be saving money over the conventional produce I usually buy, get better variety, and support the local farm economy. Win-win-win.

  36. jgkelley says:

    I just want to point out something. Scampy’s recent posts:

    “Organic is nothing but a scam to get green hippies to try and be “natural” They pay more for the very same things we NORMAL people eat.” … “The very definition of organic is anything containing carbon. Therefor ALL food is organic.” – Today.

    “So companies are just supposed to blindly accept every story a customer tells them? If Best Buy did this to every customer that tried to scam them they would be out of business quick.” – Yesterday in legit XBox exchange complaint

    “Wow, there are some real cheapskates out there. Im sorry but excluding the plasma TV if you have everything on this list you save a measly $116 or so over the course of a YEAR. This is NOT worth the convenience of having to power everything on every time you want to use it.” – in Vampire electronics post

    “If people werent so cheap and always going to places like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Ollies bargain outlet, Wal Mart etc.. They wouldnt get this crap. I you believe in the old adage “you get what you pay for” like I do then you spend good money and get good product. Shop at places like Khols, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wegmans, and Strawbridge and Clothiers and youll get good stuff. Also for cars if you take them the dealer you bought it from you wont get brake pads made from kitty litter. You buy brake pads online for $10 you can expect crap” – Dec 5 in kitty litter brake pads

    Sorry for the extensive post, but seriously, this guy expects everybody to buy exactly what he does and live exactly how he does. Anything else would be unreasonable. Scampy: Wake up and realize there are alternative methods of buying / using food and durable goods which *gasp* may be more healthy, cost efficient, and safe.

  37. cerbie says:

    @scampy: no. One big problem there is that we have not been eating the same food for the last hundred years. It has changed dramatically. The whole spirit of organic food is to move closer to that food 100 years ago.

    It also doesn’t taste the same, and organic tends to last longer in the fridge. Lettuce and tomatoes are two where the difference in taste is dramatic.

    Now, what I think would be awesome, is if this were to spur grocery stores to actually having to tell you where and who it all came from.

  38. char says:

    @speedwell: I’m joining a CSA next year (once things can grow through this cold NY soil again). the CSA provides almost 40 lbs of veggies are a month for $50 a month. That’s a good deal by any stretch. Of course, I’m splitting the shares with a friend someone, since It’s just my fiancee and me.

    Everyone in this thread needs to go read a copy of “The Omnivores Dilemma.” It’s in paperback now, so go on, I’ll wait.


    There are advantages to organic food. Not just pesticides, but in the type of fertilizer used and the related chemicals. Those advantages are more pronounced in some foods.

  39. failurate says:

    Rats!?!? They promised dog or higher!

  40. Beerad says:

    @char: I just want to second the recommendation for “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I’m only a few chapters in and it’s fascinating reading. In addition to the interesting subject matter, the writing is great — entertaining and captivating.

    I’m neither a vegetarian, nor a hippie, nor anything that tends to get slung around in perjorative terms in these types of discussions (well, mostly); just a regular dude with an open mind. (I even ate McDonald’s for lunch yesterday, so THERE.) But with all the popular topics these days around organic food, e. coli, HFCS, farm subsidies, etc., it’s hard to really know what’s true. Obviously from reading these comments alone there’s a lot of divergent viewpoints, most of which are probably based on gut feelings or stereotypes rather than “the facts.” The Omnivore’s Dilemma does a great job of explaining a lot of the positions, science, and history behind these issues (at least, the first part of the book does — I assume the trend will continue).

    So, uh, go read it.

    /blatantshillingoff