SAN DIEGO - A man is facing a fine and probation after investigators say he lied about selling certified organic and pesticide-free food at a certified organic farmers' market in San Diego. Inspectors call it "green fraud."
Undercover San Diego County agricultural inspectors said Steve Proios told them the produce he was selling at the North Park certified farmers' market was certified organic and pesticide-free.
Proios indicated that the broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red peppers and Japanese eggplant he offered for sale was grown on his family farm in Riverside County and was "pesticide-free."
The inspectors purchased samples of the produce. A state laboratory tested the produce and found it had been treated with insecticides and fungicide. The pesticides found on the produce are not approved for use under the National Organic Program.
After they received the laboratory results, San Diego and Riverside County agriculture inspectors inspected the Proios family farm and they confirmed the produce sold by the Proios family at the certified farmers' market could not have been grown at the family farm.
California law authorizes producers of certified agricultural products to directly sell their products to consumers through local markets. However, the law also prohibits misleading or false advertisement of any products, including locally grown produce.
The San Diego City Attorney's Office filed criminal charges when presented with the above evidence gathered by county agricultural inspectors.