Natural Foods Merchandiser

Cornucopia files complaint against Dean

By Anna Soref

Organic industry watchdog Cornucopia Institute has filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the legality of the milk that Dallas-based Dean Foods labels as organic under the Horizon Organic brand. Cornucopia claimed that one of the dairies supplying Dean with organic milk was breaking the USDA organic regulations by confining the majority of its cows to a feedlot rather than allowing access to fresh grass and pasture.

"We are asking the USDA, once again, to investigate serious alleged improprieties at dairies that produce Horizon organic milk," said Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst with the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.

In addition, Cornucopia has asked the inspector general at the USDA to investigate what it considers favoritism by the agency in the interest of Dean Foods. The Institute's most recent complaint is the third filed with the agency. Previous complaints also charged that cattle were confined without access to pasture on two Dean corporate-owned dairies, each of which house about 8,000 cattle. Those complaints were dismissed by the USDA.

But Boulder, Colo.-based Horizon denied the allegations. "Horizon Organic is proud of each and every one of our company-owned organic dairy farms and our network of 450 family farmers who manage their land organically to improve the health of the land, animals and families. We listen to all voices, and while Horizon Organic respects freedom of speech, we believe the Cornucopia Institute's ongoing attacks on our company are filled with inaccuracies, and, worst of all, confuse consumers who seek quality certified organic product," the company said in a statement.

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