Rapid City fraud case raises awareness about importance of checking organic labeling

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Kent Duane Anderson pleaded not guilty in Rapid City federal court Friday to fraud charges for allegedly selling to wholesalers thousands of tons of seeds that turned out not to be organic. The Anderson case has some shoppers in KELOLAND paying more attention to the organic products they purchase.

Organic produce means it was grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers and the seeds were not genetically modified. The U.S. Department of Agriculture certifies and inspects farmers who grow organic products. But some local stores also provide their own oversight.

Organic foods top the grocery shopping list for many customers at Co-op Natural Foods in Sioux Falls.

“I buy organic foods because I think they’re healthier for my body and for my family,” shopper Naguine Bensimon Tree said.

But you need to do your homework before buying organic. And that includes checking for the USDA Organic label.

“This is the simplest, one-step method to knowing for sure that the product you’re buying is certified organic,” Co-op Natural Foods General Manager Patrick Sayler said.

But at Co-op Natural Foods, the organic vetting process goes even further than the government-certified label.

“So for us, we like to have other layers of protection against fraud like that, we number-one, know our growers, we know them really well, we often meet with them, we oftentimes visit their farms,” Sayler said.

Sayler says that close working relationship between the store and growers is another important safeguard in protecting for the food they sell. But he says the few people trying to profit illegally off organics can give the industry a black eye.

Customers say bad actors who claim the products they sell are organic but turn out not to be, give them pause when they’re shopping at the grocery store.

“Are you just buying stickers and putting them on things that actually aren’t organic? Is that possible? Probably. But we’re hoping that’s not what most people are doing,” Bensimon Tree said.

Co-op Natural Food’s wholesaler is United Natural Foods Inc., which has a distribution center out of the Twin Cities. Organic products make up about 65-percent of the co-op’s inventory.

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