The latest update of major corporate ownership and involvement in the organic food sector is
now out. The chart graphically focuses on the organic brands with ties to the top 25 food
processors in North America. You can view a full-size version of the latest chart
by clicking here.
Dr. Phil Howard, an Assistant Professor at Michigan State, is responsible for the
creation and updating of the organic food business chart. He teaches in the
University’s Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies program.
Dr. Howard has now created a new graphically animated version of consolidation
occurring in the organic food sector between 1995 and 2007. You can view this
by clicking on this link:
Dr. Howard’s first organic food sector chart, from 2002 (the date the USDA’s
organic standards were implemented), offers an interesting comparison of the
dramatic changes that have taken place with organics over the past 4 years.
You can view the 2008 organic food sector chart by clicking here.
Two other revealing presentations of organic business have also been prepared
by Dr. Howard. These are a chart of major independent organic companies
and a chart of private label organic brands, including supermarket chains,
specialty chains and distributors.
All of the charts are in a pdf format and may take a few moments to load,
depending on your connection speed.
Dr. Howard has other interesting information on the structure of the
organic industry at his site.
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT HERE.
also from Cornucopia
Silk (WhiteWave/Dean Foods)
At The Cornucopia Institute, we are confident in our research and we stand by our recent report: Behind the Bean – The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry. We are providing you with additional information and clarification about Silk products, uncensored by Dean Foods’ public relations staff:
1. Silk used to be owned by White Wave, an independent company and a pioneer in the organic industry. When it was still independent, White Wave used 100% organic soybeans in their Silk products.
2. Today, the Silk brand is owned by Dean Foods and the brand is mostly conventional, not organic. Dean Foods is an $11 billion agribusiness giant and the largest milk processor in the United States. They own over 50 milk labels around the country, including Horizon Organic, a brand that heavily depends on factory farms each milking thousands of cows.
1. Nowhere in any communications from The Cornucopia Institute, including in our soy report, does it say that Silk is currently manufactured with Chinese soybeans.
MAKING THIS THE HALLMARK OF THEIR COMMUNICATIONS EFFORT IS A CRASS ATTEMPT TO DISCREDIT CORNUCOPIA’S WORK AND DEFLECT CRITICISM OVER THEIR SWITCHING THE SILK ORGANIC PRODUCT LINE OVER TO CONVENTIONAL.
2. According to reports by farmers and farmer-owned cooperatives, after Dean Foods purchased the Silk brand in 2002, they told domestic farmers that they would not work with them and buy their organic soybeans unless they could match the cheaper price of imported Chinese soybeans.
3. Dean Foods gradually began introducing additional varieties and flavors, many made with “natural” soybeans. Make no mistake about it, these are conventional soybeans. The percentage of Silk products manufactured with organic soybeans has declined steadily over the years, and recently plummeted.
4. Dean Foods’ statement about buying all North American soybeans was recently added to their web page, presumably, since we had announced the imminent release of our report and they understood the outlines of our research based on their receipt of our soybean sourcing surveys. We have no way of verifying whether the information about Dean Foods’ soy sourcing is accurate today because of their refusal to participate and share such data. Unlike their two competitors in the refrigerated dairy case (Organic Valley and Wildwood), Dean Foods refused to transparently participate in Cornucopia’s study – depriving their customers of an independently verified review of their practices.
Many other prominent soy food brands around the country also were fully transparent in their practices. Another major name in the organic and natural foods industry, Eden Foods, deserves particular recognition for its exemplary practices in full and open disclosure of its business practices.
5. In terms of Dean Foods buying a “small portion” of their soybeans from China in the past, that seems to contradict the reports from organic growers in the United States, and the company has never released any hard data on their purchases.
Commitment to Organics and Sustainability:
1. Recently, Dean Foods reformulated their Silk product line converting almost all their products to “natural” (conventional) soybeans. They did this, quietly, without telling retailers or changing the UPC code numbers on the products. Many retailers have reported to us that they didn’t find out about the change until their customers noticed and complained.
2. To add insult to injury, not only did the price of Silk products not go down when they switched to cheaper conventional soybeans, but they now reintroduced three products with organic soybeans and raised the price on those. Greedy profiteering plain and simple.
3. Dean Foods tells its customers that it partners with Conservation International to source soybeans that are produced in a sustainable, socially responsible and ethical manner. Dean Foods has not made these standards of sustainability available to its customers – unlike the USDA organic standards, customers have no way of accessing their exact definition of sustainability, which remains unclear.
We question why they do not simply purchase USDA-certified organic soybeans.
Production with a Neurotoxic Chemical:
1. Silk’s Light soymilk products, as well as its “Heart Health” soymilk, are made with soy flour instead of whole soybeans. The only known sources of conventional soy flour, suitable for soymilk, are produced by first bathing the soybeans in a “hexane bath” in order to extract the oil. Hexane is a highly explosive volatile solvent. It is a byproduct of gasoline refining and a neurotoxin. Since Dean Foods/Silk was unwilling to be transparent with us, unlike other major soy processors and marketers, regarding the sourcing of their soybeans and soy flour, we have not been able to verify that they use an alternative to hexane to process their soy flour. They have made statements to this effect in the past, but they have been unverified by independent analysis. Their updated website does not address this issue.
2. Hexane is classified as a “hazardous air pollutant” by the Environmental Protection Agency and emissions are regulated for their contribution to air pollution. Food processors are the country’s major hexane emitters. When The Cornucopia Institute sent samples of hexane-extracted soy flour to an independent lab for residue testing, residues as high as 21 parts per million were found. The effects on consumer health of repeated and long-term consumption of hexane-extracted soy ingredients have not been thoroughly studied. An extraction process that does not involve hexane is available, but using hexane is cheaper for the processor.
3. Silk’s creamers contain another hexane-extracted ingredient, soy lecithin.
4. Silk “Plus DHA” contains algal oil that is commonly hexane-extracted. Moreover, the Cornucopia Institute has received reports from parents of toddlers and children who experienced diarrhea and stomach upset from the proprietary DHA used in Silk (Life’sDHA by Martek Biosciences Corporation). This is the same additive, found in infant formula (extracted from algae and soil fungus), that has been linked to severe adverse reactions in infants. (Cornucopia, through a freedom of information request, has obtained adverse reaction reports from the FDA verifying this unfortunate health side-effect.) The FDA has never tested the safety of Life’sDHA, relying instead on safety data supplied by the same corporation that has a financial interest in selling and placing these additives in foods. The FDA did, however, indicate serious reservations regarding the safety of these additives.
View Soy Scorecard
We are proud of The Cornucopia Institute’s role in bringing this scofflaw to justice. For years, many in the industry suspected Promiseland Livestock was “laundering” conventional animals as organic (replacement heifers mostly going to giant factory dairy farms and beef cattle).
Cornucopia’s formal complaint, concerning illegal conventional cattle being transferred to the giant Aurora Dairy complex in Platteville, Colorado, eventually led to the downfall of Promiseland (USDA investigators later found Aurora had “willfully” violated 14 tenets of the organic regulations).
Just like Al Capone was not convicted of murder or racketeering, but rather of tax evasion, Promiseland was brought down by their unwillingness to share records with investigators from the USDA, as required by law, that would’ve proven the organic origin of their cattle.
It is sinful that this operation has, literally, been able to operate for years while going through this appeals process. Organic farmers do need the right to due process, to assure that overzealous regulators do not strip them of their livelihoods, but these delays have been excessive and not only have fueled the buildup of a number of factory farms, allegedly including the 9000-head Natural Prairie operation in Texas, but these improprieties could’ve also defrauded many organic consumers along the way.
We know that National Organic Program director Miles McEvoy is cognizant of the loopholes that were exploited in this case, to drag out its final dispensation, and we expect that he will make proposals to tweak the regulations, ASAP, to ensure that never happens again.
You can read the USDA’s news release on this matter here.