26 September 2014

CORNUCOPIA, WI: Consumer fraud investigators in the state of Wisconsin released their findings this week after a three-month long investigation into allegations that Wal-Mart stores throughout the state of Wisconsin had misled consumers by misidentifying conventional food items as organic.



In a letter to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection stated they'd found numerous instances of conventional food products improperly labeled as organic by the retail chain. Specifically, Wisconsin authorities told Wal-Mart’s legal counsel that “use of the term ‘Wal-
Mart Organics’ in combination with reference to a specific non-organic product may be
considered to be a misrepresentation and therefore a violation” of Wisconsin state statutes.



The Cornucopia Institute, a governmental and corporate organic industry watchdog, had filed complaints with Wisconsin regulators and the USDA after finding numerous incidents of fraudulent organic labeling in Wal-Mart stores in five states from Texas to Minnesota.



Although Wisconsin regulators opted to send only a formal warning concerning the retail giant’s organic marketing practices they said that they had reached an agreement with the company under which steps would be taken to prevent future organic food misrepresentations. Wisconsin officials also said they would be continuing their surveillance of the company's stores.



“This finding is a victory for consumers who care about the integrity of organic food and farming” said Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. “Wal-Mart cannot be allowed to sell organic food ‘on the cheap’ because they lack the commitment to recruit qualified management or are unwilling to properly train their store personnel,” Kastel added. “Such practices place ethical retailers, their suppliers, and organic farmers at a competitive disadvantage.”



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The Cornucopia web page (www.cornucopia.org) contains a photo gallery of conventional food products that were both priced and labeled with Wal-Mart’s unique in-store point of purchase signage as organic foods. The photos were gathered during an investigation by Cornucopia of Wal-Mart’s organic practices.