There’s a lot of recent news about food fraud (and another article here). There is often this sort of thing in the paper, about one thing or another. For a long time it was about Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee – people advertising this coffee, when the coffee turned out to be a blend with only 10% or so Jamaican Blue Mountain.
We at the Buena Vista Roastery have recently entered a contract to sell Cafe Feminino coffee (our new Fair Trade Organic Peru) and we have certain demands for integrity along with it. Namely, that we will not blend the Cafe Femenino coffee with another and call it ‘Cafe Femenino’. This makes a lot of sense and unfortunately, a lot of roasters and coffee retailers may not use such integrity. Which brings me to the point of this blogpost: Food Fraud, namely organic integrity.
Our annual inspection comes up in a week or two. The diligent inspector will come and put us through the proverbial ringer to test to see that we, in fact, know and adhere to the standards set to ensure that there is no cross contamination in the processing of our coffee beans. Organic means Organic. Anyone who comes into the roastery can be sure that the organic beans we grind to brew as an organic brew were not ground in the same machine as a conventional. It’s truly organic. Furthermore, when it says it’s ‘organic’, it is. There is no out-of-date label on a bin. The bins have been washed with approved cleaning materials, the beans haven’t been blended with others and are true to what we say it is.
There are other places I have visited that sell “Fair Trade Organic” espresso that I know for a fact is not (because we sell them the beans and they don’t buy FTO beans). We can tell them, but there is no regulatory mechanism in place to maintain integrity on the retail side. I have asked about this, and there is nothing the industry can do.
I also have seen beans sold by another non-certified roaster as “organic”. We pay thousands of dollars to be certified and we are inspected as a service to the consumer so that they know their beans are organic. A processor who is not certified, can be selling any beans, cross contaminating, and is creating a horribly unfair competitive advantage for themselves, even not acting out of integrity.
So, please ask your roaster about their inspection, about their certification, about integrity. Be sure that the coffee you buy is in fact what it says it is. Let’s be rid of Food Fraud and express integrity.