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Many Costa Rican pineapples weren't organic, despite claims

Kate Welsh
July 02, 2018

Quick question: Are you sure—absolutely positive—that the pineapple you've snagged because of the "certified organic" sticker is, in fact, organic? You should be. But if this piece of news is any indication, unless you've grown it yourself, you can't be certain. 

A report by Costa Rican lawmakers recently found that "American consumers paid premium prices for more than $6 million in pineapples sold as organic but grown with banned chemicals," according to 12NewsNow.com. That's a lot of dirty pineapples.

What went wrong here? It all goes back to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's less-than-perfect system.

The agency works with and approves companies around the world to "inspect, monitor and certify whether foods bound for U.S. consumers are produced according to organic standards." In the case of the "organic" pineapples, the USDA had approved two companies as certifiers, California's PrimusLabs and Germany's Kiwa BCS Oko-Garantie GmbH, to investigate Costa Rican pineapple producers. 

Costa Rican lawmakers found that these companies had certified multiple farms run by Del Valle Verde Corp., even though the company's processing plant was suspended by Costa Rica for organic production. 

This was a lucky break for farmers, as pineapples certified as organic cost about twice as much as regular pineapples. Growing fruit with non-organic chemicals is markedly cheaper and easier for farmers. 

Now, the situation has turned into a legal mess. Costa Rican lawmakers have requested that their country's attorney general investigate whether the fruit production companies, the certifiers, and/or other officials have committed fraud. The USDA doesn't seem to have made any effort to address how their current system fails. 

So, for the time being, you may want to look into growing your own organic produce. I hear tomatoes are easy enough? 

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