Woolworths pulls organic baby spinach from shelves

Why did packs of Woolworths’ organic baby spinach disappear from its shelves recently?

The short answer is its organic certification has been called into question after several rounds of independent testing.

Responding to numerous requests since 2015 from consumers to test whether Woolworths’ organic vegetables live up to their organic claim‚ the Cape Town-based organisation TOPIC – The Testing of Products Initiated by Consumers – had the retailer’s organic sweet potatoes and baby spinach products tested for pesticide residues.

The products are labelled with the BCS Öko-Garantie logo‚ a global organic certifier‚ and the two farms which grow the organic sweet potatoes and baby spinach are certified under the European Organic Regulations.

After a long‚ stop-start investigation spanning six months‚ TOPIC – an organisation funded by consumers and retailers committed to transparency – released its findings on Wednesday.

While no pesticide residues were found on the organic sweet potatoes‚ very low levels of four pesticides were found on the organic spinach samples.

Of those‚ three are allowed for use in organic farming but one‚ fluopyram‚ is a highly persistent fungicide which is not allowed in organic agriculture.

It’s usually used for grapes‚ berries‚ fruit and tomatoes but not for spinach‚ the TOPIC report says.

Woolworths questioned the result‚ TOPIC said‚ as their supplier does not use the fungicide on its spinach.

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