Organic Labels are Not Always Honest
September 04, 2008
Dishes advertised as local and organic at restaurants are not infrequently frauds. They may not be all-natural, as your menu promised, and may come from a huge national vendor like Sysco rather than a family-owned farm.
As the Slow Food movement gains popularity across America, terms like "sustainable" and "artisan" are showing up on more menus. But there are no actual "truth-in-menu" laws, and even the word organic is used loosely. There's a vast difference between the term "organic," which may mean food raised without pesticides or antibiotics, and the more intensive "certified organic," which is legally regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The phrase "all-natural," only means "minimally processed" with no artificial ingredients or colors.
A restaurant can call its ingredients organic whether they're factory-farmed Chilean products grabbed from the shelves of Wal-Mart or hand delivered by a small farm after being picked that morning.
Ultimately, diners need to be aware, self-educate, and ask questions. Diners also should pay attention to their taste buds. Organic generally tastes better -- produce is more earthy and pungent, and tomatoes have higher sugar and acidity.