Organic produce...from China??

Organic produce...from China??
You buy organic because it's better for you and the environment because the produce is grown without pesticides or other potentially-harmful chemicals.

But what if those organic vegetables came from China? Would you serve them to your family?

It turns out you may already have.

I found packages of frozen organic veggies from China at many local grocery stores, including PCC Natural Markets and Whole Foods.

Whole Foods, the country's leader in organics, sells a variety of frozen organic produce from China - peas, spinach, asparagus - under its "365 House" brand.

People who buy organic expect something special, but can you trust the organic seal when it's it's on produce from China?

"China has a very unfortunate history now of delivering contaminated and adulterated goods to the United States," said Linda Greer, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The council is an environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

"I personally would not buy anything certified organic from China," said Greer, who has visited China in the past. "And I would be too concerned that despite the organic label, that food might be adulterated."

On its Web site, Whole Foods asks the question: "is organic from China possible?" And the company answers "Yes."

The corporate blog says "We've gone to great lengths to make sure the organic private-label products we import from China meet our own standards and the national organic standards.

"Our buyers and auditors visit the farms and facilities we buy from, and we have created testing protocols that test for pesticide and heavy-metal residues."

There's a long history of organic farming in China, the company says, and China is "a very large country and there are parts that are largely unpolluted."

Whole Foods says it's proud of the organic products it sells from China. To its credit, the company puts "product of China" on the package -- something it is not required to do. It may be in small print, but it's there.

The few frozen organic veggies sold at PCC Natural Markets are also clearly labeled. PCC says it feels confident that these products are safe. The company says it checks all the food it sells, wherever it's grown and processed, including the U.S.

When asked why the company chooses to buy from China in the wake of all the tainted Chinese products that have surfaced in the past year, Whole Foods said that's because importing is the only option for frozen vegetables.

The company says most of the organic produce grown in the U.S. goes to the fresh market. Therefore, the grocer needs to look elsewhere for frozen veggies.

Whole Foods says less than one-half of one percent of the private label products it sells comes from China. The company did say, however, that it plans to buy more in the years ahead.