SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Government and organic food label inspectors identified 68 companies which have been selling or trading products labeled as organic which broke the rules, RTL Nieuws said at the weekend.
In some cases, the companies earned tens of thousands of euros selling non-organic coffee, meat, chocolate and vegetables as organic even though they did not meet the proper standards, RTL said.
The broadcaster bases its claim on an analysis of reports made to the two watchdogs covering the sector between 2015 and 2018. In total, 58 cases involved ‘misleading’ the public and the remaining 10 were more serious fraud offences, RTL said.
‘These are not incidents,’ VU University criminologist Wim Huisman told the broadcaster. ‘This shows that there is a substantial problem and that it is happening systematically.’
‘People who buy organic food pay a higher price for produce which is animal and environment friendly,’ food scientist Gertjan Schaafsma said. ‘If there is fraud, these people are being ripped off.’
Just one of the cases uncovered by RTL are being looked at by the public prosecution department. Calls from farmers for a get-tough approach from government inspectors are likely to go unheard and a spokesman for the NVWA told RTL that the agency does not have enough staff to tackle all the fraud involving organic food.
Priority, therefore, is given to cases which have implications for food safety. In May, RTL Nieuws reported that hundreds of products are being sold in Dutch shops as organic, but which actually come from farms which have broken the rules on animal welfare, the use of medicines and the environment.
Produce from 220 farmers – including eggs, honey and dairy produce – is being labeled and sold as organic, even though it does not meet all the proper standards.