100% Organic? Not this Thyme

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions to eat heathier and buy more organic food. It takes a certain amount of willpower (and money) to purchase organic bananas, herbs, or tomatoes that can be often twice as expensive as conventionally grown fruits and veggies. But there’s a sense of a satisfaction that comes with it, knowing that you’re feeding yourself and your family better, healthier food.

But what if wasn’t really organic? What if that “organic” label was nothing but a lie?

That’s exactly what the company Herb Thyme Farms was doing – lying to their customers. They were taking conventionally grown herbs and packaging them as organic and selling them at a premium.

Should they be held accountable? Absolutely. And that’s what Michelle Quesada, who frequently bought these products, sought to do. Little did Michelle know that it wouldn’t be that easy.

Until the law firm of Boucher LLP brought Michelle’s case before the courts, companies like Herb Thyme that had been ripping off consumers in this way, had long been able to hide behind the federal Organic Food Production Act (“OFPA”) which preempts – essentially wipes out – consumer claims of this nature.

After almost a year of investigation, gathering evidence of Herb Thyme’s wrongdoings, and then navigating the numerous arguments and hurdles of the California court system – Michelle and her attorneys got a groundbreaking unanimous decision from the California Supreme Court. In Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., the Court upheld the right of consumers to bring a fraud claim against a grower who intentionally mislabels conventionally grown herbs as “organic” and pockets the premiums that organic produce commands.

Attorney Raymond Boucher, who represented Ms. Quesada, said the issue is significant on a variety of levels. “I always felt very strongly that we were on the right side of the issue,” he said. “If someone is gluten free, or if someone wants organic, or is a vegetarian, those things are incredibly important to them and they ought to be able to rely on what the food manufacturers are saying.”

The impact of this decision will be positive not only for consumers, but also for honest businesses who are taking on the costs of producing organic produce and struggling to compete with the non-organic mass producers. “The decision is a pro-competitive decision,” Boucher said. “It will give the smaller farms and growers who are fighting to sustain family businesses a more level playing field. It will give them the steps to be able to stop mass producers from violating the law.”

 

And for companies like Herb Thyme, perhaps they’ll think twice before trying to pull the wool over the eyes of their customers.