(NaturalNews) Until early 2009, Silk brand soy milk was made using organic soybeans. But earlier this year, Dean Foods (owner of the Silk brand) quietly switched to conventional soybeans, which are often grown with pesticides. But they kept the same UPC barcodes on their products, and they kept the product label virtually the same, only replacing the word "organic" with "natural" in a way that was barely noticeable. They also kept the price the same, charging consumers "organic" prices for a product that was now suddenly made with conventionally-grown soybeans.
Many retailers and consumers never noticed the bait-and-switch tactic, so they kept buying Silk, thinking it was still organic. The shift on the product label from "organic" to "natural" wasn't well understood by consumers, either. Many consumers continue to think that the term "natural" is basically the same as "organic," when in fact they are almost opposites. The term "natural" is entirely unregulated, and almost anything can be claimed to be "natural" even when it's sprayed with pesticides or treated with other chemicals.
This bait-and-switch ploy continued throughout 2009 until a few watchdog organizations started to catch on to the covert switch. In late October, the Cornucopia Institute (www.Cornucopia.org) accused Target stores of misleading consumers by advertising Silk products using the old "organic" labeling even though the product being sold in stores was not organic. Cornucopia's Mark Kastel accused Target and Dean Foods for "blurring the line between organic and natural," thereby confusing consumers while boosting profits from the more lucrative sales of non-organic products sold at organic prices. (http://www.cornucopia.org/2009/10/off-target...)
Meanwhile, a Sunflower health food store in Texas also found itself caught up in the bait-and-switch tactic. It had been reordering Silk for months, thinking the product was still organic. But now, after discovering the scam, the store posts a hand-written sign in front of the Silk products, warning consumers with this message: "Silk is no longer organic."
"We don't want to be part of customer deception," said the store owner in a Star-Telegram interview.
According to that same story, food retailers in California, Delaware and Texas were also duped by Silk's bait-and-switch scheme, only discovering the switch to conventional soybeans months after the switch was covertly made. Dean Foods, you see, never bothered to tell retailers they had switched from organic to conventionally-grown soybeans. They just quietly made the switch but kept the same box design and UPC codes, perhaps hoping no one would notice. And the ploy worked!
"Dean has only added to the marketplace confusion between 'natural' and 'organic,' as they definitely do not mean the same thing, and 'natural' requires no verification whatsoever," said Consumer Reports senior scientist Urvashi Rangan (see Star-Telegram article link below).
Dean Foods is one of the big food giants that serves processed, factory-made foods and beverages to the American people. It's the parent company of Horizon Organic, the so-called "organic" milk maker that's been caught up in a web of deception exposed by the Organic Consumers Association (http://www.naturalnews.com/021763_organic_st...).
The company has pushed hard to lower organic standards so that it could market products as "organic" even though they might contain questionable ingredients. When Dean Foods bought out WhiteWave, the creator of Silk soy milk, WhiteWave founder Steve Demos soon left the company in disgust, saying that "green" values had been abandoned for the sake of profit.
Dean Foods even refused to participate on a "soy scorecard" investigation undertaken by the Cornucopia Institute (http://www.naturalnews.com/026294_soy_food_f...). The last thing this company wants is scrutiny of its business practices, it seems. For example, in 2002, Dean Foods cut off U.S. soybean farmers and switched to soybeans grown in China (http://www.cornucopia.org/silk-whitewavedean...). And for years, the company has waged attacks on the Cornucopia Institute itself.
In my opinion, Dean Foods is the Enron of the food industry. It has no ethics, no moral code and no hesitation about deceiving consumers or hurting American farmers in order to maximize profits.
In America today, the big food companies are all about disinforming consumers. Rather than telling the truth on product labeling, they seek to confuse consumers with misleading information. That's why they want to weaken the definition of "organic" -- so that they can essentially grow conventional foods with pesticides, then misleadingly position them as "near-organic" products that are sold at organic prices.
Consumers end up buying products they think are organic but really aren't. And because the products are misleadingly positioned as "organic" products, they command a higher price. This, in turn, generates more profits for the food companies.
Lying about being organic pays well in the food industry today. Perhaps that's why so many companies continue to do it.
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