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Aurora Organic Dairy denies further allegations of malpractice

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 01-Sep-2009

Aurora Organic Dairy has denied accusations by small-scale farm campaigning organization the Cornucopia Institute accusing it of selling milk that does not adhere to organic standards.

Aurora supplies dairy products to food manufacturers and provides many large supermarket chains with store brand organic milk, including Wal-Mart, Safeway and Target, among others. This is the second time the Cornucopia Institute has filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) about Aurora’s organic standards in the past two years. But the company has repeatedly said that its organic certification is valid.

The Cornucopia Institute claims that Aurora Organic Dairy does not allow its cattle sufficient grazing on open pasture as is required by USDA organic regulations. The complaint centers on an accusation that Aurora has planted “substandard crops that are planted on an annual basis” that do not provide adequate year-round grazing. The organization also claims that the USDA has not investigated earlier allegations that it raised two years ago regarding the same Platteville, Colorado facility.

Vice president of communications for Aurora Organic Dairy Sonja Tuitele told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “These complaints are really serial allegations. They are all without merit. They are false claims that have never proven out. This is basically the same complaint as in 2007 and the USDA has declined to investigate.”

Following the Cornucopia Institute’s 2007 complaint, the USDA issued a notice to the company after it found 14 alleged violations of National Organic Program rules. However, Aurora came to an agreement with the USDA that it would reduce its herd and provide its cattle with daily access to pasture during the growing season.

Aurora was accused at that time of supplying milk to retailers that did not meet organic standards, but the case was dismissed as Aurora had never lost its organic certification.

Tuitele said: “They [the Cornucopia Institute] are going after any organic dairies that have any kind of scale. Obviously, the organic regulations are scale neutral.”

Aurora says that it is subject to “annual inspections, regular monitoring, and unannounced inspections at any time” and the company received Animal Welfare Review Certification for each of its five organic dairy farms last December.

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