You’ve probably seen Eden Foods on the shelves at your local co-op or grocery store in the past. Or maybe you’ve been eating Eden Foods’ products for a long time; OR, maybe you’ve never even heard of them before–who are they? We here at StainlessWaterBottles.org are excited to spread the great information about Eden Foods and their products since we feel strongly about their eco-friendly goals, character as a company, and the 100% all-natural food that they deliver to thousands of happy customers each and every day. But what makes Eden Foods stand out among the millions of other food companies, besides their tasty products? What do they believe in? How is their food completely all natural? And what do they mean by Bisphenol A (BPA) free? We think that after learning more about Eden Foods you’ll agree that this company is not only a safe and healthy food source, but that they are in general a pretty awesome organization.
What is Eden Foods?
Eden Foods is America’s oldest natural food company. Founded in 1968 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Eden Foods was originally established by a group of friends with one common goal in mind: to source good, natural, organic, and macrobiotic foods that they couldn’t find in the local grocery stores. They wanted to expand on their studies of macrobiotic foods and its principles of plant based protein, whole grains, and toxic-free, locally grown foods.
The group began as the Eden Co-op carrying products such as whole grains, soy foods, beans, sea vegetables, miso, sesame and nut butters, and so on. With many other people in the area looking for healthy food options as well, the Eden Co-op quickly expanded with a cafeteria and a bakery, becoming known for some time as the Eden Deli. Since Eden Foods was one of the very few places where you could find natural, organic, and macrobiotic food choices, people would come from all over the country, and other health food stores began taking notice, wondering how they too could get the unique foods that Eden was carrying. Thus, the Eden Foods brand name was developed.
Today, Eden is not only the largest natural food company in North America, but they are also the largest independent manufacturer of “dry grocery” organic foods. Most of Eden Foods’ ingredients are grown as close as two miles away, and as far as two hundred miles away, which is still incredibly close. Eden believes in keeping things local at all times when possible, and supporting the community in which they are a part of. With their transparent ingredient listings they don’t require their customers to read between the lines–they’re proud of the food they offer, and have no secrets when it comes to their all-natural ingredients, or food-handling practices.
Eden Foods believes strongly against producing genetically engineered foods, and has an established policy against genetically engineered organisms (GEOs). In a 1993 letter to Eden customers, Eden President Mike Potter states,
“You can depend upon Eden Foods to be diligent in avoiding any aspect of the commercialization of genetically engineered food. We object to the introduction of these foods for human consumption in any manner, for any reason. We are fundamentally opposed to these foods for moral, ethical, and practical reasons.
With more than twenty-four years in the natural foods industry, I remain unaware of any other food company that spends a greater percentage of its time or money to be certain of the growing, ingredients, and processing used for foods carrying its brand name.”
Eden as well stands by their promise to always have zero tolerance for food irradiation. Though almost all of Eden’s products are certified organic in which irradiation practices are prohibited, Eden still takes great measures to know exactly where their food comes from, how it is made, and how it is handled. They as well encourage their customers to stand with them and to speak out against food irradiation practices.
Since beginning in 1968, Eden Foods has always provided all natural, organic vegetarian- and vegan-friendly foods. Even now, the only product Eden offers that is not vegetarian or vegan is their Eden Bonito Fish Flakes, made from a type of mackerel. Eden Foods is also proud to carry a variety of Kosher foods, all of which are marked with a Circle-K seal on the products.
Eden Foods: One of the Only Companies to Offer BPA-Free Canned Products
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Eden President Mike Potter speaks up about Eden’s decision to offer BPA-free canned bean products.
Potter first learned of the potentially harmful BPA effects in 1997 and quickly began looking into safer, healthier canning alternatives. Potter was finally able to offer BPA-free canned beans in 1999, after two years of frustrating research and negotiations with Eden suppliers. Potter wanted to know if Eden’s cans contained BPA, but the can companies wouldn’t tell him the ingredients of cans, stating that it was a “trade secret.” (Sounds like SIGG’s “proprietary” ingredients, right?) Potter says,
“Remarkably, I couldn’t find out if it was in the cans I was using or not. I was flabbergasted that legally, it was none of my business. I had no right to know, as a consumer, a food manufacturer, a parent or grandparent.”
Finally, while speaking with one particular company, Ball Corp., Potter started to get some answers on BPA. Though Ball Corp. also wouldn’t reveal the specific ingredients in their cans with Potter, they did help him understand the chemistry behind BPA being in the cans, and the processes of it. To which, Potter finally asked what he refers to as the “high-school question,” well than what did Ball Corp. use in their cans before BPA? Potter says,
“They told me they used an enamel made from vegetable resins. So I asked: Can I get my cans with that on it, please?”
And by paying 14% more for the BPA-free cans, Eden Foods was able to get their bean products with the veggie-lined cans. Though it would means spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more each year, Potter is still happy with his choice to do so. “It was the right thing to do. I didn’t want BPA in food I was serving to my kids, my grandkids or my customers.” Potter says.
When Eden officially started having BPA-free bean product cans in 1999, the public wasn’t as aware of BPA’s harmful effects and it hadn’t become a big deal on consumer’s radars yet. Potter says, “At the time, consumers hadn’t heard about bisphenol A. The name itself was like Swahili.” Eden didn’t even bother promoting the cans back then, and only recently did they started labeling the bean products as “BPA-free.”
For now, only Eden Foods’ bean products are packaged in BPA-free cans. The FDA has not yet approved other types of processing for highly acidic foods, such as Eden Foods’ tomato products. However, Potter is convinced that with modern industrial chemistry and consumer demand, this will not always be the case. Potter says, “It’s not fun dealing with this stuff, but where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Why Eden Foods Chooses Not to Use the USDA Seal
Though all of Eden Foods’ products far exceed the USDA Organic requirements in growing, handling, and processing, Eden chooses not to use the USDA seal on any of their products or marketing materials. Instead of Eden meeting the USDA’s standards, it’s rather a matter of the USDA standards not being high enough for Eden Foods.
It’s scary to think about a food company having higher standards for organic foods than the USDA, but it’s true and Eden Foods has a point. Though the implementation of the USDA’s National Organic Program (USDA’s NOP) began in 2002, Eden had serious concerns about the standards as far back as 1992 when it was first in the rule drafting process. An article written by Eden states,
“Petitioning the NOP several times in the rule drafting process, Eden asked that the new national organic standards be a strong minimum standard, allowing growers and companies to certify to a higher standard. The answer was an adamant No: the USDA intended to set one minimum organic standard, it would not allow higher standards to be certified, and total control would lie with USDA.
In the first draft released to the public, the USDA announced its intention to allow food grown in city and industrial sewage sludge, genetically engineered food, and irradiated food to be certified organic. This became infamously known as the ‘Big Three.’ As deafening public outcry caused the USDA to ‘cave,’ Eden issued a press release that the struggle to save organic standards was still very much alive. We recognized the ‘Big Three’ as a common negotiating tactic: Make an offer that is so ridiculously unacceptable that all future offers would seem good by comparison. Our concerns have been realized. Under USDA it has become cheaper and easier for manufacturers to market ‘organic’ food that is not organic by any reasonable definition.”
Sounds scary, right? It gets worse… in October of 2005, “the most serious degradation of national organic standards occurred” in a back room deal where the Organic Trade Association lobbied Congress to make the adulteration of organic foods legal. Meaning, any “organic” manufacturer would be able to use toxic additives, including chemicals or substances that do not need to be show on ingredient panels, in their products.
Though over 400,000 consumers contacted their government representatives in protest of not wanting organic standards weakened as such, agribusiness influences won, and the ruling was passed. The Eden Foods article goes on to state,
“As a result, food bearing the ‘USDA Organic’ seal no longer needs to be natural food.
As a company that has worked for decades alongside salt-of-the-earth organic family farmers to grow and make food by the highest possible organic standards, we cannot in good conscience add a symbol to this food that essentially cheapens it.”
Maybe the next time you’re at the grocery store and see a USDA seal on a product you’ll think twice before buying it. Not to say that all certified organic foods are bad, but many, such as Eden Foods, are already essentially organic without having to have the USDA own them, or say as such.
Eden Foods is truly a pioneer in growing and processing safe and healthy, natural foods. It’s honestly too bad that more companies don’t follow Eden Foods’ footsteps and pave the way for a safer environment for not only their consumers, but for other companies consumers as well. But, like Potter said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and hopefully this will not always be the case. However, as consumers, we can as well do our part by demanding higher, safer standards for the food we consume, and by being careful about the products we purchase.
If you are interested in learning more about organic foods, and organic food practices we recommend checking out www.organicconsumers.org, thefutureoffood.com, or the Eden Foods website, where similar information as noted above can all be found.
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