From the duh files: ‘People are being duped’ at Canadian farmers markets

Some farmers market vendors push bogus homegrown stories to consumers looking for fresh local fruits and veggies — and Marketplace has the hidden camera footage to prove it.

The Marketplace team went undercover at 11 bustling markets across Ontario this summer to ask vendors where their produce comes from and then tested the veracity of those claims using surveillance and other investigative techniques.

The results suggest many consumers could be paying premium prices for produce with fake backstories about where it was grown.

At four of the markets, the investigation exposed five different vendors who claimed to be selling fresh produce they had grown themselves but who were actually cashing in by reselling wholesale goods purchased elsewhere.

At a fifth market, the team discovered a vendor passing off Mexican produce as Ontario-grown.

Most of the markets Marketplace visited had vendors known as resellers, who sell produce they didn’t grow. They purchase wholesale fruits and vegetables from places such as the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto — Canada’s largest wholesale market — and take it to farmers markets to sell for a profit.

When asked directly, many resellers were upfront about the fact they didn’t grow the produce, but others were not.

Lauren Nurse, who farms 6 ½ acres in Stirling, Ont., relies on farmers markets as a source of income. She says this kind of behaviour undermines the industry.

“People are being duped,” she says. “There’s no difference between food that you buy at the grocery store and food at the farmers market if it all comes from the food terminal.”

At the Peterborough Farmers’ Market, one of the largest and longest running in Ontario, Marketplace identified two resellers making misleading claims about their products.

The largest of these vendors, Kent Farms, operates two different stalls at the market. One is run by James Kent, and the other by Brent Kent.

They say they’re third generation farmers and have properties northeast of Toronto in Newcastle, Orono and Lindsay.

They told undercover Marketplace journalists that most of the produce they were selling was grown on their family farms, or was from neighbouring properties.

Marketplace started digging after noticing the cucumbers Brent Kent claimed to have grown were labelled with stickers from a large multinational corporation that grows greenhouse vegetables 500 kilometres away in Kingsville, Ont., located south of Windsor on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie.

To determine where the Kents were getting the rest of their produce, Marketplace followed a Kent Farms truck the day before the Peterborough market.

Long before dawn, the truck drove 100 kilometres from James Kent’s property in Newcastle to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto. There, the journalists witnessed James Kent and his employees loading their truck with more than 50 boxes of produce including peppers, zucchinis, strawberries and radishes.

At market the next day, James and Brent Kent were seen unloading boxes that looked to be the same as those from the terminal. Staff at Brent Kent’s stall peeled stickers off peppers and James Kent transferred vegetables from wholesale boxes to farm bushels.

When undercover Marketplace journalists asked about the zucchinis, James Kent said: “They’re mine.” He also claimed the radishes were from his neighbour “across the field.”

“He buys all my strawberries,” he said. “The last thing I can do is say no to him when he sells me some radishes.”

Brent Kent said he grew the peppers that Marketplace filmed having their stickers removed earlier that day.

‘Believe in transparency’

Both James and Brent Kent declined to be interviewed.

In an emailed statement, James Kent said they “believe in transparency” and are committed to their customers. He said he grows some of what he sells and purchases some Ontario produce at the food terminal because he believes it’s a “benefit to consumers to provide products from other regions of Ontario.”

Marketplace found four more examples of vendors at markets in Burlington, Gravenhurst, Orillia and Toronto who weren’t clear or upfront about what they were selling.

A vendor at the Burlington Mall Farmers’ Market southwest of Toronto told undercover Marketplace journalists that the tomatoes he was selling were from his farm, which he said is called Koornneef. But Koornneef Produce is actually a large wholesaler that only sells produce at the Ontario Food Terminal.

Organic BS: Hucksters make a buck, plead guilty to fraud in Canada

Chapman and I toured southern Ontario tomato farms and processors 16 years ago, and shot youtube video, but youtube didn’t exist, so we didn’t know what to do with the video.

Here it is.

Trevor Wilhelm of the Windsor Star reports that bankrupt Maidstone tomato processing company received a controversial $3- million provincial grant is expected to plead guilty next month to purposely mislabelling products as organic.

An order signed by a Toronto judge states that William (Bill) Thomas, owner of Thomas Canning, has agreed to plead guilty on behalf of the company and pay a $40,000 fine. In exchange, several other charges against the company and Thomas himself will be withdrawn.

The judge’s order states the guilty plea must be entered no later than Nov. 23. Thomas’s next scheduled court appearance in Windsor is Nov. 6.

The guilty plea and $40,000 fine is part of a joint submission from prosecution and defence lawyers. But the judge’s order states the court is not bound by that submission.

According to documents previously filed in Ontario court by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Thomas and his company are accused of 11 offences in contravention of the Food and Drug Act, the Consumer Packaging Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

Thomas Canning and its owner are accused of labelling regular canned tomato products as organic.

The company and Thomas were also charged with falsifying the country of origin on their products between September 2013 and July 2015, passing off American tomato products as Canadian with labels that read “Product of Canada.”

Thomas was also charged personally with lying to a federal food inspector on Jan. 8, 2015, about canned tomato paste sold under the brand Tree of Life.

The company’s website, which is no longer accessible, previously stated that Thomas Canning charged a 20 per cent premium for organic products.

Thomas Canning received a $3-million grant from the province in 2014 to build a new fruit and vegetable processing facility. The plant was never built.

Farmers planted additional crops, signing contracts with Thomas Canning to supply tomatoes to the new plant. Those additional tomatoes rotted in the field.

Before the company went into receivership earlier this year, nine farmers were suing Thomas Canning for $2.85 million for reneging on contracts to grow tomatoes in 2016.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has said it’s fine with the way Thomas Canning used the money. The ministry said the money was used to create and retain jobs, rebrand its Utopia products and open up markets in Nigeria and China.

After receiving the $3 million, Thomas Canning went bankrupt. That process is still winding its way through court.

Anti-vaxxers, organic all the same in Australia; scammed school into screening BS film

Anti-vaxxers have allegedly scammed their way into a Gold Coast school under the pretence of holding a seminar about organic vegetables.

But what Miami State School students got was something very different.

The anti-vaxxers instead screened a film about their unfounded beliefs that there is a link between autism and childhood vaccinations.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is demanding answers as to how the documentary came to be shown at the school on Tuesday night after organisers told school officials they were running a seminar on organic vegetables.

She said the organisation made “misrepresentations” to the school, and she would be speaking with Education Minister Kate Jones on Wednesday to get to the bottom of the matter.

“My initial advice is there has been some misrepresentation from that organisation to the school in question where they conveyed to the principal that they were to be conveying information about organic produce,” the premier told reporters on the Gold Coast on Wednesday.

“I don’t think they were very clear in their purpose and I don’t think they should have been allowed to present in such a manner.”

The organisers of the film have previously gone to extreme lengths to keep the location of screenings a secret in an effort to keep them from being shut down, amid strong opposition from Australian health professionals.

Maybe the Australian government and public should apply similar critical faculties to anyone claiming to purport the benefits of organic production.

Sensible Swedes: Court rules coop grocery chain ‘misled’ consumers by claiming organic food safer, healthier

Kavin Senapathy of the Genetic Literacy Project writes the makers of the viral 2015 “Organic Effect” video, which claimed that switching to an all organic diet can eliminate pesticides from the body, are no longer allowed to promote the video or its claims, ruled the Swedish Patent and Market Court on July 3rd following three days of hearings in mid-May.

The Coop chain of Swedish grocery stores must not use the video or make unsubstantiated claims about organic and conventional food or pay a fine of one million Swedish Krona (about $120,000 USD). The Swedish Crop Protection Association (“Svenskt Växtskydd”), a trade association of nine Swedish crop protection companies, filed the lawsuit [in 2016], citing misleading and inaccurate advertisement.

The “Organic Effect” video … totally [omits] the crucial fact that organic farming does use pesticides, albeit different than the ones used in conventional agriculture. Even though the pesticides used in organic farming tend to be naturally derived, whether a substance is synthetic or natural in origin, in and of itself, has no bearing on its toxicity or environmental impact.

Further, as Switzerland-based biologist Iida Ruishalme pointed out at her Thoughtscapism blog, the video left out information that conflicted with the video’s shaky pro-organic assertions.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis.

See the crap below.

Campy in organic and conventional layer chickens

Poultry is a major source of Campylobacter, which can cause foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in humans. Additionally, poultry-associated Campylobacter can develop resistance to important antimicrobials, which increases the risk to public health. While broiler chickens have been the focus of many studies, the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter on layer farms has not received equal attention. However, the growing popularity of cage-free and organic layer farming necessitates a closer assessment of (1) the impact of these farming practices on the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter and (2) layers as a potential source for the transmission of these pathogens.

chicken-thermHere, we showed that the prevalence of Campylobacter on organic and conventional layer farms was statistically similar (p > 0.05). However, the average number of Campylobacter jejuni-positive organically grown hens was lower (p < 0.05) in comparison to conventionally grown hens. Campylobacter isolated from both production systems carried antimicrobial resistance genes. The tet(O) and cmeB were the most frequently detected genes, while the occurrence of aph-3-1 and blaOXA-61 was significantly lower (p < 0.05). Farming practices appeared to have an effect on the antimicrobial resistance phenotype, because the isolates from organically grown hens on two farms (OF-2 and OF-3) exhibited significantly lower resistance (p < 0.05) to ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, and tylosin. However, on one of the sampled organic farms (OF-1), a relatively high number of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter were isolated.

We conclude that organic farming can potentially impact the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter. Nevertheless, this impact should be regularly monitored to avoid potential relapses.

Antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter in organically and conventionally raised layer chickens

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. September 2016, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/fpd.2016.2161.

Kassem Issmat I., Kehinde Olugbenga, Kumar Anand, and Rajashekara Gireesh

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2016.2161

CFIA suspends organic food processor

Jim Romahn of Agri 007 reports the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has suspended the registration of Establishment 691, Thomas Canning Ltd., of Maidstone, Ont. (Jim also supplied the pic of this real, but unrelated jar of salsa.)

barf-in-a-jarThe company, which says it is the only organic food processor in Ontario, specializes in tomatoes and juices.

The CFIA “the operator failed to make corrections to three non-compliances identified during an inspection performed in 2014.

Thomas Canning Ltd., will not be allowed to export, trade interprovincially, or apply a Canadian grade mark to products regulated under the Processed Products Regulations until the necessary corrective actions have been implemented and the CFIA has verified that the regulatory requirements can be consistently maintained.”

But go ahead, Ontario, eat up.

Whole Foods sucks at food safety: Salmonella positive in organic micro greens

Osage Gardens Inc. is recalling Osage Gardens Organic 2oz Micro Greens, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

organic-micro-g-greensOsage Gardens Organic 2oz Micro Greens was distributed to Whole Foods stores in Colorado and Kansas. The Osage Gardens Organic 2oz Micro Greens product is packed in a clear plastic clamshell and has a label on the bottom with a UPC Code 709376615008 and affected product are dated with a Julian codes from 266 to 279’.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was a result of a routine sampling by the FDA which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria. Osage Gardens Inc. has ceased the production and distribution of the product as FDA and Osage Gardens Inc. continue their investigation as to what caused the problem.

 

Tell me what I already know: Social media and organic food risks

With the increased popularity of organic food production, new information about the risks attached to food products has become available. Consumers need to make sense of this information, interpret the information in terms of risks and benefits, and consequently choose whether to buy these products or not.

social-media-willyIn this study, we examined how social media mediated interaction with another person impacts risk perception and sense-making regarding eating organic food. Specifically, we investigated how risk perception and sense-making are influenced by the specific message frame, the identity of the conversation partner, the perceived similarity and expertise of this partner, and the initial attitude of individuals.

An online interaction experiment, including a simulated chat in which we manipulated the message frame (gains vs losses vs uncertainty) and the conversation partner (expert vs peer vs anonymous) was conducted using a representative sample of Dutch internet users (n=310). Results showed that chatting with partners who were perceived to be expert was associated with lower levels of risk perception, while chatting with partners who were perceived to be similar was associated with higher levels of information need, intention to take notice, and search for and share information. Results also showed that initial attitude had a strong effect.

The more positive consumers were about eating organic food, the lower their risk perception and the higher their need for information, intention to take notice of, search for and share information following the chat. Implications for authorities communicating on food (risks) are discussed.

Social media mediated interaction with peers, experts, and anonymous authors: Conservation partner and message framing effects on risk perception and sense-making of organic food

Food Quality and Preference, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.09.003

F Hilvera, M Kuttschreuter, E Giebels

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950329316301768

Actors, sportsthingies, real housewife of somewhere: Don’t build bridges, don’t advise on vaccines or food

I learned to roll my own cigarettes in jail, because tobacco in a pouch was about 90 per cent cheaper than TMs (tailor-mades).

organic-cigs-delpyI was so terrible at it, I spent a couple of my hard-earned jail dollars on a contraption that would roll them for me

That was 1982.

The New Zealand Herald reports that young people are labouring under the false impression roll-your-own cigarettes are healthier than manufactured ones because they are more “natural”, when they could actually be at least as hazardous and more addictive, researchers say.

A study by Smokefree researchers at the University of Otago also found some people would find roll-your-own(RYO) cigarettes less appealing if the rolling papers were a mustard yellow colour.

Otago’s professor of public health, Richard Edwards, published a letter in medical journal BMJ in 2014 saying evidence showed RYO cigarettes “are at least as hazardous as any other type of cigarette” and pointing to animal research suggesting they were more addictive.

“Any notion that loose tobacco is more ‘natural’ is severely undermined by evidence that the concentration of additives is higher in loose tobacco, at about 18 per cent of dry weight, compared with 0.5 per cent for factory made cigarettes,” he wrote in his letter.

“Some of these additives, including sweeteners such as honey, sugar, dextrose, and sorbitol, often at much higher concentrations than in factory-made cigarettes, potentially make the product more acceptable to children. The high concentration of other additives would probably surprise RYO cigarette smokers.”

The researchers at Otago published their findings in the international journal Tobacco Control.

Prevent E. coli before church

Looks like former U.S. undersecretary for food safety, Richard Raymond, is losing his religion.

richard.raymondIn a column he wrote for MeatingPlace, Raymond confesses, “Members of a church I used to belong to decide to start a community garden plot. I volunteered to be on the planning committee. The first item out of the gate was that the garden had to be organic. I asked what they considered to be organic. The main emphasis was no artificial fertilizer could be applied, meaning the fields would have to lie idle or grow legumes periodically to recharge the soil.

“It also meant they intended to spread cow manure on the field, a great way to turn an organic garden plot into an E coli O157:H7. Field of Nightmares.

“I resigned.”

Good on ya.