Action News Investigation: Is farmers market produce really from the farm?

Friday, November 4, 2016
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An Action News investigation revealed not all those fruits and vegetables, packaged alongside local grown produce, may actually be from nearby farms.

ST. DAVIDS, Pa. (WPVI) -- An Action News investigation revealed not all those fruits and vegetables, packaged alongside local grown produce, may actually be from nearby farms.

Action News viewer, Arjun, contacted Action News after his visit to the Good Harvest Produce stand at the Lancaster County Farmers Market in Delaware County.

Arjun took video on his cell phone after witnessing a farmer repackaging produce.

"You can see the gentleman emptying boxes and boxes of Driscoll's into these green recycled containers," he said.

Arjun said he wanted to know why mass-produced berries were being sold without clear labeling.

"I find it deceptive that mass-produced food is being almost peddled as farm grown local food," he added.

On a trip to the same stand, Action News also found packaging from other produce grown out of the area also in plain sight. Our cameras also captured both local and mass-produced produce sold in similar containers, side by side.

Action News Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman asked the stands owner about the repackaging.

"We do it right in front of the customer so there is no question," said Chris Powell of Good Harvest Produce.

Powell said he has been at the Lancaster County Farmers Market for 18 years. He said he is not hiding anything, and admits his stand repackages and sells produce from large manufacturers. Powell said his customers expect the best.

"We're looking for poor quality, spoilage, taking that out so when the customer gets home they have a pint of good raspberries," he added.

Powell told Action News he delineates what is grown at the Good Harvest farm and what isn't based on signage.

He added, "Homegrown from Lancaster County, that's fresh, that's homegrown, fresh in. Anything that's not from the area or Lancaster County says fresh produce."

"It's almost like a decoding chart that one needed to be able to buy produce, and I think that should not be the case," said Arjun.

Action News also found a price difference.

On a shopping trip to a nearby grocery store just down the road, a 12-ounce container of Driscoll raspberries sold for $5.98. At Powell's stand, a pint sold for $6.99. Saltzman asked Powell about it.

"My question is how much spoilage is in there?" he asked.

Action News also visited Reading Terminal Market in Center City to see if they repackaged produce. We did not find any evidence of that. Our cameras saw Driscoll's products only be sold in their original containers. Produce from nearby farms was labeled as local.

Arjun said he just wants to know what he is buying and that is why he went local.

"I'm thinking homegrown, good, fresh, support local community, local economy," he added.

In Pennsylvania there is no law that requires grocers to tell consumers where their produce comes from or if it has been repackaged from another source.

Driscoll's, a family-owned company, told us in a statement:

If true, we are disappointed that an individual switched packaging and misrepresented the Driscoll's branded fruit. At the foundation of Driscoll's, a family-owned company with a rich farming history, are our independent growers. While we deliver delicious varieties of berries, our growers oversee all aspects of farming, from planting, harvesting and packing fresh berries. We greatly value the fruit grown by our wonderful growers, and educate those that sell our berries to understand the positive impact these growers have on their local communities.