(NaturalNews) The debate concerning the health benefits and detriments of organic food in comparison to conventional food is ongoing, but the latest organic dairy scandal has given some truth to the notion that what you see isn't necessarily what you get. A large organic dairy farm has come under fire from consumers for their organic milk being marketed with fraudulent claims. To end the lawsuit, a $7.5 million settlement has been paid to the plaintiffs.
The raising of cattle for the production of organic foods is more natural and "old-fashioned" than cattle raised for conventional food. One of the most notable differences is in the food the livestock eats: no antibiotics, growth hormones, animal by-products, drugs, chemicals or pesticides. The farmers don't use chemicals on the grazing pastures either. Furthermore, the cattle are generally permitted to roam freely, and barns are void of narrow stalls.
All meat labeled as organic (displaying the "certified organic" stamp or sticker) has to meet the requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture.
This particular scandal began when a farm research group filed a complaint to the USDA that up to 4,400 dairy cows were being confined on giant feedlots by the organic dairy farm. It is required by federal standards that organically-raised cows be permitted to graze. This first complaint was dismissed.
When federal inspectors found that this allegation was actually true, in addition to 13 other violations of organic food production, a second complaint was filed. Despite this, the farm continued production and faced no fines.
Eventually, more than 30 states yielded consumers that purchased store brand organic milk produced by the same farm with 14 violations, and the lawsuit was born. Not only has the farm been targeted, but the massive chains selling the misleading product have been as well.
The lawsuit centralized on the labeling of the milk. Images of cows grazing in green pastures and graphics displaying family farms are, in this situation, telling a lie. One of the reasons people purchase organic products is to support the healthy, happy lives animals lead when raised organically, so this misrepresentation became a source of anger and discontent to its purchasers.
The dairy farm in question continues to admit no malpractice and claims they chose to settle in order to avoid the hassle of court.
Regardless of the reasoning, this is a good step for those who choose to buy organic, as well as for organic farmers who follow regulations. It proves that corporations will be held responsible whether the USDA takes action or not for allegations of violations.