We have received a number of inquiries about Pacific Natural Foods from organic consumers who contacted the company, received a response, and would like The Cornucopia Institute to clarify – especially how we arrived at our conclusion that Pacific Foods buys Chinese soybeans.
At The Cornucopia Institute, we are always careful in our research and reporting, and we never make claims that are based on only one source or on “industry rumor.” With Pacific Natural Foods (PNF), we initially heard about their Chinese sourcing decisions from American farmers we interviewed, who told us that PNF is one of the companies they haven’t been able to work with since they were told that the Corporation can purchase organic soybeans more cheaply from China. When several farmers and farmer representatives gave us similar accounts of PNF sourcing from China, even accepting cheap loads of soybeans that were rejected for quality concerns by other organic companies, we decided to dig deeper.
First, we contacted PNF and invited them to participate in our Organic Soy Scorecard project. We explained that our Scorecard is a great way for organic companies to share their story with their customers, who value transparency and the story behind their food. We were told that their “Certified to the Source” program should provide enough assurance to their customers – that they didn’t need yet another third party to verify their sourcing. When we asked which other third parties were certifying them, we received no answer. Since they would not share this information with us, our sense is that PNF’s “Certified to the Source” program is not at all third-party certified, but simply a marketing gimmick. We urge consumers, if they are interested, to ask Pacific Natural Foods for the identity of the third party certification agent for their “Certified to the Source” program, as well as the standards for the program. We also would encourage consumers to ask the corporation to participate in the Cornucopia study.
Cornucopia’s researchers verify every piece of information before we make public statements about companies’ commitment to organic integrity. To verify the farmers’ accounts that PNF buys from China, we checked bills of lading from a research firm that tracks import/export data. Their data revealed that Pacific Natural Foods imported organic soybeans from a Chinese company, with China as the country of origin, Shanghai as the port of departure and Portland, Oregon as the port of arrival. We shared this finding with PNF because we wanted to know more about the Chinese farms and the certifying agent they use in China, but they never responded to our question.
Pacific Natural Foods has recently told concerned customers that its soy beverages and “products” are sourced from the United States. Their processing plants, where they make the soybeans (ingredients) into soymilk (products), are indeed located in the U.S. They did not tell consumers that their ingredients are sourced from the United States. If they were buying all U.S.-grown soybeans, we would expect that they would clarify that as well, and there would have been no down side to participating in the Cornucopia study.
Given that they are careful in their choice of words to say their “products” and not their “ingredients” are produced in the United States, we remain confident in our research.
We encourage consumers to support organic companies that are willing to openly share their sourcing information with their customers. View Soy Scorecard