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UPDATE: California Supreme Court: Organic Means (Only) Organic

omaskybukhariev / Flickr

omaskybukhariev / Flickr

Update at 3:00pm: In a closely-watched case, the California Supreme Court has ruled that food products can’t be labeled and sold as “organic” if they contain any non-organic ingredients.

The case involves a food producer named Herb Thyme Farms, which grows mostly conventional herbs but has one farm that’s been certified organic. The company processes the herbs at the same facility – and sends blended conventional and organic products out under the “fresh organic” label and packaging.

A California consumer filed a class action suit, saying she paid more for the herbs because she believed they were 100 percent organic. She challenged the Herb Thyme Farms “organic” label as false advertising and unfair competition.

The company argued that it’s been authorized by federal officials to use the “organic” label – and that federal regulations preempt state law. Two lower courts agreed. But the state Supreme Court unanimously overturned those rulings, saying companies cannot label a food product “organic” if it contains any non-organic ingredients.

Original Story (AP) - The California Supreme Court is set to decide whether consumers can challenge a food product's "organic" label in state court under California law.

The ruling expected Thursday would follow a lower court decision that barred such suits on the grounds that they were overridden and not permitted by federal law. A division of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said Congress only wanted state and federal officials to prosecute organic food violations in order to create a national standard for organic foods.

At issue are allegations in a lawsuit by consumer Michelle Quesada that Herb Thyme Farms, Inc. mixed organic and non-organic herbs, but falsely labeled the product "organic."

The company said in court documents it had been authorized by federal officials to use the organic label.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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