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Why are we divided over fortified organic foods?

After I put together my story on fortified organic foods, I heard from two more retailers about this issue: Mike Greenblatt, owner of Pangaea Naturals in Manahawkin, N.J., and Kemper Isely, co-president of Natural Grocers with various western locations.

Both retailers are against synthetic additives in certified organic products.

Greenblatt says, "Being that it dilutes the certified organic label, it is not good for our customers or our industry."

Isley says, "Unless it is an organic additive, it should not be added to an organic product."

As I already mentioned in the article, another retailer and industry veteran, Michael Kanter, co-owner of Cambridge, Mass.-based Cambridge Naturals, is not a fan of organic food additives, whether synthetic or not.

Yet, the Organic Trade Association, a key advocacy organization for the organic industry, supports vitamin and mineral additives in organic products if they are "essential," according to Barbara Haumann, senior writer/editor for the OTA. She says, "OTA supports the continued allowance in order to preserve a balance of nutrients in the consumer diet."

Even more, the OTA surveyed consumers and found that more shoppers than not would buy up fortified organic products. Yet, the retailers I surveyed--admittedly, in a very unscientific study--did not necessarily think they would profit from fortified organic foods and beverages, nor lose if these products don't exist.

This makes me wonder:

  • Why does there seem to be disagreement on this issue between retailers of organic products that I spoke with and industry trade associations? If you're a retailer, what do you think?
  • Were the consumers surveyed by the Organic Trade Association core natural products shoppers, who are those served by the retailers I talked to? Perhaps not. Karen Falbo, the nutritional education department manager for Natural Grocers, says, "Our customers are a discerning group of shoppers that will continue to read labels and ask questions about sourcing." If you're a grocery shopper (and, well, who among us isn't?), would you buy fortified organic products even if the additive is synthetic?

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