Thursday, April 06, 2006


Let's not bother with the evidence about whether "organic" is good for you!

Veggies at the University of California, Berkeley, got a little greener with Monday's debut of what campus officials say is the first certified organic salad bar at a college or institution. Berkeley, which started serving organic carrots, dressings, kidney beans and other salad fixings at its Crossroads dining commons, joins a number of colleges nationwide offering organic food.

What makes UC Berkeley different is that it has certification, which means it follows a detailed set of rules governing everything from how dishes are washed and pests chased out to how food is prepared. Organic produce is kept separate from the moment it arrives on the loading dock under a meticulous system that includes color-coded cutting boards and a food processor earmarked for organic produce only. "It shows just that much more effort toward being dedicated to serving organic and making sure the product is as organic when it's in the counter here as it was when it left the farm," said Jake Lewin, director of marketing and international programs at Santa Cruz-based CCOF, which issued the certification.

A key challenge for campus officials was adding organic products, which can be more expensive, without pushing up fees, said Shawn LaPean, director of Cal Dining. They were able to do that by negotiating with vendors.

Berkeley officials hope to expand the salad bar to all four dining halls and are looking into offering more organic options. At the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, Mass., spokeswoman Barbara Haumann said a growing number of colleges are going at least partially organic, but it appears Berkeley is the first to get certification. "It definitely gives a guarantee and assurance that procedures are being used so from the OTA perspective, yes, it's certainly important," she said.


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