Center Says Private Legal Action Will Help Enforce Organic Labeling Requirements and Uphold Organic Standards to Maintain Public Trust
Washington D.C., October 17, 2007 - Today, the Center for Food Safety voiced support for a private class action lawsuit filed by consumers against Aurora Organic Dairy that alleges the company misled organic milk purchasers by producing milk from several of its dairy farms in violation of existing organic requirements. The class action lawsuit resulted after a two-year USDA investigation found that Aurora violated 14 provisions of the Organic Food Production Act.
"We applaud the USDA for diligently investigating consumer concerns over Aurora's practices and for initially determining that Aurora Organic Dairy willfully violated the law," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director, Center for Food Safety. As result of the investigation, USDA later entered in a consent agreement directing Aurora to stop organic production at one facility and make numerous changes in its operations.
"While the USDA has exposed Aurora, the agency action could not make whole all of the organic milk consumers who purchased Aurora milk. In situations like this where the USDA cannot act to fully protect consumers and the integrity of the organic standards, the lawsuit filed today shows that consumer watchdogs will take action."
The complaint filed today alleges that the illegal activities identified by USDA at Aurora's facilities should not have allowed the company to label its milk as "organic" and that such labeling resulted in extensive consumer deception The suit seeks to recoup damages for consumers who purchased the organic milk, and other sanctions seeking limits on Aurora's ability to market organic products.
"The action filed today will ensure that there are the teeth in the organic law. It is needed in order to ensure that American consumers can trust the USDA Organic label. It will send a powerful message that organic standards must be maintained, ensuring that those consumers who choose to buy organic are not deceived," added Mendelson.
Aurora Organic Dairy is the leading private-label organic milk processor. They supply store brands nationwide, including Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Wild Oats, Safeway, and many other grocery chains.
The Center for Food Safety is at the forefront in protecting the integrity of U.S. organic standards and food labels. In early July, the Center filed a complaint and legal petition with the USDA, urging the agency to enforce the reliability of the U.S. organic food label by preventing the misleading practice of labeling seafood imports which have not met US organic standards as "organic."