Organic Consumers Association

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Consumer Advocacy Group Charges Egg Distributor with Misrepresentative Labels

A New York state-based egg distributor has come under fire from the Organic Consumers Association, a public advocacy group, and is facing a trial by jury in the near future.

In May the OCA) was contacted via email by a humane certified inspector looking through the records of Phil’s Fresh Eggs of Illinois to verify its use of labeling and identifying it as a humane and organic farmer.

The traceability audit, prompted by a whistleblower’s complaint, found that although Phil’s Fresh Eggs, a large supplier to Handsome Brook Farms (HBF) in New York, had the appropriate certifications justifying its labeling, three of its supplying farms lacked any such credentials. The report also said HBF had purchased eggs on the open market without verifying if they were “pasture-raised”, yet resold them as such. Eggs from HBF have been used by such major grocers as Whole Foods.

The inspector’s email, OCA reports, was sent to “69 people at 39 companies, including the top 10 conventional grocery chains” within the United States. Handsome Brook Farms accused the inspector and consumer advocacy groups in a court filing of engaging in “false advertising, tortious interference, and trade libel”, as well as being a direct competitor because OCA’s actions had resulted in HBF losing planned sales with thousands of grocery stores. The suit failed in court.

OCA is countersuing, as Alexis Bayden-Mayer spokeswoman for the OCA states, to correct the “deceptive labeling” practices of HBF. The Record contacted Handsome Brook Farms several times by phone and email to elicit a response but the requests went unanswered.

Unable to determine what eggs from what farms were being supplied to HBF as pasture-raised, OCA has said the practice violates the “D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act”, undercuts the true pricing within the egg market, and falls seriously “short of consumer expectations” that their purchases support humane treatment of animals.

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