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Cascadian Farm – Web Business Review

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
For the most part, I prefer to write positive reviews about companies we’ve come across that we really like. However, occasionally, one comes across something that is so concerning, I do believe it’s important to put the word out there. Cascadian Farm is a Washington-based organic foods grower and manufacturer. My husband and I are big fans of just about anything organic, and felt good about Cascadian Farm until we discovered something that has us seriously worried about this business.

The main product we’d been buying from Cascadian Farm was their frozen peas. Then one day, I thought I’d give their hash browns a try. I picked up a bag of them from the freezer section at my local Whole Foods supermarket, but then I noticed that there were holes in the plastic bag – horizontal slits on the back. I picked up another bag, and saw the same horizontal openings on the back. My husband and I then went through every bag in the market freezer and discovered that the same holes were present in all of the packages. At the time, I thought perhaps the shelving in the freezer had caused these perforations, and obviously, the food was not fit to eat.

Apart from the yucky issue of freezer burn, the contaminants the food would have been exposed to from the packaging plant, to the shipping trucks, to the supermarket stockroom, to the freezer section, to the checkout, and then on the way home in my car to my freezer were not something I wanted to eat for dinner. Seems like a no-brainer. Dust, grit, dirt, commercial cleaners, human hair, dander, and dangerous bacteria are the very reasons why processed foods need to be contained in tightly sealed packages.

Over the next couple of months, we shopped at each of the other 5 stores in our local area, and found that all of the bags of Cascadian Farm’s hash browns were torn in this manner in all the locations we went to. It was then that I realized that all of their frozen vegetables had slits in the backs of the packages – including the frozen peas we’d been buying for over a year.

It was at this point that I decided to contact Cascadian Farm via email to let them know that all of their frozen foods in my local 20 mile radius had broken bags. Frankly, I was shocked by their reply. The representative who wrote me back informed me that not only was Cascadian Farms aware of this, but that it is a common practice in the frozen foods industry to punch holes in the bags to let the air out.

I then wrote to them again, voicing my concerns that this was a potential health hazard, and that any number of contaminants could get into the food during packing and transit, and that I didn’t understand why they didn’t simply vacuum out excess air. Even folks who freeze foods at home can purchase a vacuum of this kind to ensure that their freezer bags are properly sealed and free of air bubbles, so surely, Cascadian Farm could use a similar process to protect public health. I am sorry to report that I received no response to my concerns. They simply ignored me.

Even if other frozen foods companies use what I consider to be a totally unsanitary practice, as a consumer, I expect higher standards from an organic corporation. Ostensibly, organic businesses are supposed to have an above average concern for the health of both the environment and human beings. A company that is not taking seriously a consumer’s concerns that their products could so easily become contaminated with plain old industrial dirt, or something as deadly as E.coli bacteria is not out for the public good.

A decade ago, another organic company, Odwalla, was involved in the death of a 16 month old baby who drank their juice. The juice was contaminated with E.coli and apart from the little child’s tragic death, many other consumers became severely ill after drinking Odwalla’s products.
I quote from the Business Digest here:

“Investigators now contend that Odwalla had significant flaws in its safety procedures and citrus-processing equipment was so poorly maintained that it was breeding bacteria in “black rotten crud” and “inoculating every drop of juice.” Before the outbreak, Odwalla had received letters from customers who become violently ill, but had not addressed the problem.”

Though Odwalla’s sales dropped by 90% after this terrible tragedy, they remain in business, but I will never purchase their products because they have already proven themselves to be an unethical corporation. Failing to respond to consumers becoming ill is totally unacceptable, and if they had only cared, the poor child would not have died. Though I have not heard any reports of people becoming ill after eating exposed foods manufactured by the Cascadian Farm corporation, their lack of response to my concerns makes me fear that they may be following in Odwalla’s footsteps, with their eyes on the dollar, not on the public good.

I do not want people to trust that the organic label means a food is okay to eat. Please, if you are a Cascadian Farm customer, take a look at the holes in the bags. You will see for yourself that any number of foreign matter can get into the packaging, and can decide for yourself whether you consider it safe for you and your family to be eating the contents of an unsealed package. Please, post your thoughts here about this, tell your friends, and try to get a response from Cascadian Farm. They need to listen to their consumers to avoid what could be a genuine public health hazard.

And, if you work for Cascadian Farm, I surely would like to know why my concerns were ignored by your staff. It’s simply not acceptable.