A PR firm for Jim's Organic Coffee
sent a pound of the company's Wonderbrew blend beans. The package calls it a lower acid coffee - a tough label in general, because there are probably no standards for this, but our tasting panel - various people hanging out for breakfast last weekend - found that it did have less bight and brightness, which is typical with lower acid coffees. Unlike others I've had, though, it didn't taste thin. If regular coffee acidity puts you off to tea, try this blend. A pound of beans bought directly from the company is $9.70, plus whatever they will charge for shipping - I'd have checked, but I would first have had to register on the company's web site, which, frankly, I found off-putting. Also, I thought it odd that the coffee packaging mentioned low acid, but that the description on the web site didn't. Sounds like it's time for a little editing.
Labels: coffee, Jim's, opinion, organic, review
I saw a press release
from a company called China Organic Agriculture
, which currently focuses on organic rice. At a time when Chinese food products have caused so many health problems becasue of contamination, the idea of having that country enter the organic food supply is disconcerting. According to a page no longer on the company's site, but still in Google's cache, selling to the US is apparently one of its goals. Given the New York Times story about the widespread nature
of problem foods, I think my organic purchasing will stick to home grown products.
Labels: China, imports, organic, rice
Last week I mentioned
a New York Times story about the U.S. Department of Agriculture adding more inorganic ingredients to the list of those that can go into food labeled as organic. In my post, I mentioned Annie's Homegrown, whose CEO, John Foraker, the story quoted. Apparently someone using the name John F, apparently from Annie's, tried to post a comment anonymously on the entry. Instead of allowing the entry, I decided to look at it graph by graph.
I just came across your piece on this....Here is what I wrote on another blog to get the facts straight...
There is a whole lot of confusion around this issue, Here are the facts vis a vis the NY Times piece and the letter I wrote to the FDA on the issue...
I somehow doubt that the CEO himself is reading blog entries on this issue; I would have guessed a PR factotum. But as it was posted at 10:12 in the evening, who knows? Though as they're based in California, that's probably actually just after 7PM. And I just came across this comment on a site that was new to me, Ethicurean.com
, which is about "sustainable, organic, local, and/or ethical" food. Pretty cool, and I'll be adding it to my links.
Most importantly: Annie's is in no way seeking to undermine the organic standards. In fact, the organic standards are being tightened in this new process, and we completely support that! The USDA previously offered a blanket exemption for non-organic ingredients, like annatto, to be used in Certified Organic products when the ingredient is not commercially available in organic form. Recent changes in the organic guidelines (due to the Harvey lawsuit) now require manufacturers like us to get specific USDA pre-approval for any trace ingredient which is natural, but not organic, in a product that is Certified Organic at the 95% level. Approval for these trace ingredients will only be granted when there is no viable organic alternative for the ingredient.
Literally what this says is that under an older set of standards, a company could use non-organic for up to 5% of the ingredients when the ingredient wasn't commercially available in an organic form. Now a company has to get pre-approval to use a non-organic ingredient when there is no viable organic alternative - which could actually be even looser
than commercially available. If the product were commercially available but too expensive, a company could technically argue that it was a non-viable alternative. And we're talking about a list of pre-approved ingredients, so what's the big difference?
We have been making organic mac & cheese colored with annatto since 1998, and have been completely in compliance with the letter, and spirit of the organic National Organic Program guidelines. The product in question, Organic Shells and Real Aged Cheddar, is Certified Organic at the 95% level (it’s actually 99.4% organic), and always has been. The only non-organic ingredient is the natural color derived from annatto seed, a plant used by native cultures throughout history, and widely used to add color to natural and organic products. My letter to the USDA requested that annatto be added to the list of specifically pre-approved ingredients so that our product can continue to be legally labeled “Certified Organic” at the 95% level, as it has been since introduction to market.
Yes, I think we all understand that food coloring isn't going to be a big percentage of the ingredients. I'm sure many of us are familiar with annatto seeds, which you can commonly find in Latin food shops because it's often used in Central and South American cooking. And thanks for letting us know that it was Annie's that was looking for the annatto exemption.
If we could find organic annatto, in the quantity, quality, and efficacy we need, we would use it, even if it were more expensive. We have been searching trying to qualify a source for a long time. I am sure we will eventually succeed. However, while we continue that effort, we need to ensure our ability to remain within the law; that is why I wrote the letter to the USDA, to ensure that annatto was not overlooked in the process.
Fair enough - the quote did mention that you weren't getting a deep enough color from the organic. But maybe, just maybe, you could have a somewhat paler artificially colored mac and cheese. It could still be toward the orange end of the spectrum. The driving force to buy Annie's will be parents, not kids, and the parents just want something that appeases to some degree the child's demand for the Kraft blue box. And there do seem to be bulk producers of organic annatto, though as Ethicurean.com points out
, it's about four times as expensive and the non-organic.
You may believe, and there are certainly others that agree, that there is no place for colored Mac & cheese. Why not just offer white? Well, we do offer white and it is very popular. However, there are millions of kids in America that have been convinced by decades of advertising from a large company that makes macaroni and cheese that shall remain nameless, that Mac and cheese should be orange/yellow. Overcoming that is difficult. In fact, we received thousands of letters from consumers asking us for an orange mac & cheese product. So, we bridge to give these kids and their parents a path to organic that they will accept, and adopt into their everyday life. The more consumers we bring into the organic tent, the better off we and the planet will be.
Let's be frank - this is really about marketing and sales and the needs of the business, not about creating a path to organic. It's easier to make the sale when you have both types. I'm not arguing that - heck, your company wants to keep growing, and I understand that. And there are many expectations that cheddar cheese itself should be an orange color because so much of it has been dyed for so long, even though real cheddar might
be a pale yellow because of whatever the cows eat. But I think you have to admit that the driving force isn't necessarily the good of others, even though that does clash with your overall branding. This is where businesses have problems. Branding is a communication of an espoused way of doing business and existing as a company. Things get uncomfortable when corporate practices start differing. I think that's what bothers people like me, and what makes things uncomfortable for CEOs.
Annie’s has long been a leader in converting consumers and the mainstream food companies toward more organic products. For example, I am very proud that there are now >16,000 acres of precious farmland that are now growing wheat for Annie’s organically, rather than through the unsustainable practices of conventional farming. This is just one example. We are part of the solution, not the problem.
So why not hold off on yellow until you can get the organic source? And, to be fair, you haven't been converting consumers. It really bothers me when companies think that they're the ones in the drivers seat when often they aren't. Consumers have been moving toward organic foods because they have seen so many problems with commercial agriculture over many years and they want something more trustworthy. Companies like yours have been able to grow because of the demand. You aren't converting them; they're converting the market and making it possible for your business to exist. There are 16,000 acres of wheat that are now organic and sold to you because consumers
want organic and farmers want the higher and more sustainable prices that organic crops offer. It's the consumer demand that is the solution, and you are benefiting from it. When you start doing things that appear to be backing away from that demand, consumers don't like it. When people ask for orange mac and cheese, why not say that it doesn't exist and part of the reason you get organic is to avoid that level of artificiality?
There is a detailed FAQ on our website for additional information about Annie's position on this subject. The link is:
It largely repeats what is already here.
Labels: annatto, Annie's, FDA, organic, standards
in the New York Times says that the US Department of Agriculture is ready to add more inorganic ingredients that can go into food sporting the department's organic seal. Under the current rules, at least 95 percent of something labeled organic must actually be
organic. The rest must be something where an organic substitute isn't commercially available. Apparently this includes such items as hops for beer, dill weed oil, and elderberry juice. What I'm left wondering is whether there is absolutely no organic substitute, or if a company only has to say that it can't get it commercially. And if that's the case, would the inability to get the wanted ingredient at a given economic price be considered unavailable? And just how serious are "organic" companies?
John Foraker, chief executive of Annie’s Homegrown, argued that nonorganic annatto was a crucial ingredient in the company’s macaroni and cheese. “Organic annatto is not readily available and does not deliver the same cheese color,” he said in a May 14 letter to the Agriculture Department. “Making orange colored macaroni and cheese is an important element of our offering. Without annatto, our macaroni-and-cheese products would be white.”
I can remember my wife and I feeding this to our kids to get away from the more commercial varieties. But the color is artificial? It just seems wrong that organic is the same processed crap as non-organic. Oh, and then the public was given only a week for the public to express its opinion, even though food companies had two years to request ingredients to be put on the list. Maybe organic will have to go out the window and making things from scratch will be the only reasonable option for those interested in what they're really eating, and not what a label claims.
Labels: agriculture, Annie's, ingredients, organic
The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about Wal-Mart's participation
in a forum about sustainable agriculture. I found one paragraph of particular interest:
The company is requiring shrimp farms that have been ravaging the coast of Thailand to change their aquaculture practices or lose the retailer's business. Under the company's new rules, the shrimp farms must be certified by Global Aquaculture Alliance or Aquaculture Certification Council as being farmed in environmentally sound ways, he said.
Now, part of this may be public relations, but there's no doubt that the company has forced many of its suppliers into changing their business practices. Many of these vendors have even said that the changes helped them enormously in improving their businesses. Wal-Mart literally could single-handedly change the face of world food production, making a far bigger impact than any Whole Foods could.
Labels: organic, shrimp, sustainability, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods