If the package at the store reads lettuce and it’s green and leafy, do you really have any reason to question the validity? Well, maybe not with lettuce, but it seems that more things are being marketed in a false light as of late. The trend of bending the truth to please consumers is nothing new, but what about when it comes to your health and the food you put in your body? Is this even legal? A California egg company is being taken to court over their marketing choices and the fish industry may find itself in some hot water soon.
Andrew Gunther is the program director with Animal Rights Approved. Gunther reported for the Huffington Post this fall about Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs and Petaluma Eggs Farm. The farms were being sued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for violating the state of California’s consumer protection laws. In a nutshell, the eggs from these farms were sold in cartons that stated the hens were “raised in wide open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to ‘roam, scratch, and play.” These words imply that the chickens are free-range. The suit is being filed against the farms because the farm uses covered sheds that have no outdoor access for the birds. The ALDF states that the claim is misleading, and if the closed off sheds are in-fact where the birds roost and lay eggs, they are far from free-range chickens.
The eggs are also called organic. This is just a bleak reminder that the word organic does not really mean what it should. Organic regulations are loose and hard to regulate. It no longer means a small family farm that is committed to sustainable farming, it could simply mean that the birds, who are crammed into a shed, are fed a feed that will pass the inspection of being “organic.” Does this really warrant the title or the higher price concerned consumers are willing to pay?
Recently the fish industry has taken a hit as they are not exactly labeling their foods properly either. Genetic testing has lead to the discovery that nearly a third of fish nationwide are mislabeled. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the study that was just released from the non-profit group, Oceana. The mislabeling of fish can be done for financial gain as a consumer is often very unlikely to identify the species they’ve ordered or purchased. Sushi restaurants were found to be among the worst when it came to mislabeled fish. However, the report warns that health issues may be the scariest side-effect of this practice as certain mislabeled fish may have much higher mercury levels than their menu or store label name would lead a consumer to believe.
The trouble is pinpointing when the fraud is taking place with the fish. A restaurant may be innocent as the supplier could be the source of mislabeling. However, the fishermen could be the real culprit. The Oceana report highlighted how the entire industry needs more oversight and enforcement.
It would sure be nice to shop at the store without having to do mountains of research before each trip. “Who’s scamming me today?” should not be a concern as we spend our money to feed our families. Thankfully there are advocates, working hard to get to the bottom of these issues and bring them to light. When they taught you in elementary school to “never judge a book by its cover,” I guess that message was meant to extend to the grocery store. Never judge an egg by its carton or a fish by its label.