SAN JOSE, Costa Rica ” Ricardo Rudin Mathieu ran a racket. He put labels bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic seal on boxes of pineapples grown conventionally with chemicals.
Before Rudin was caught, he managed to export more than 400,000 of the phony organics to the United States and Canada ” enough to supply a pineapple to every resident of New Orleans.
Rudin confessed in 2014, USDA records show. Then something remarkable happened. The agency did nothing to him.
Like others responsible for what appears to be a rising tide of fakes in the $43 billion U.S. organic food market, Rudin escaped consequences for duping U.S. consumers, who pay steep premiums for food that may not meet the promise of the USDA seal.
The USDA records show that a year into a meandering three-year investigation, agency managers told Costa Rican officials they had no idea whether Rudin continued selling conventional fruit as organic.
A former business partner has filed a lawsuit against Rudin, 42, accusing him of mislabeling produce again, exporting 40,000 conventionally grown pineapples to the U.S. last year at a 100% markup.
‘He’s moved on to bananas and I believe avocados and plantains, from what we know,’ William Umana Aguirre, co-owner of Packing House Gala Gold in Costa Rica, told NerdWallet.
Umana accused Rudin last year of misappropriating company money to export phony organic pineapples using another supplier’s certificates. He says he reported Rudin to judicial authorities but they have not taken any steps against him.
‘I really need to get this guy shut down, but nobody does anything,’ Umana said.