JUST THE FACTS, FAIRWAY

If a little knowledge really is a dangerous thing, you have to give Fairway credit for teaching its customers about organic foods in such frank, detailed terms. When the independent New York City-based retailer hosted its second "Organic Education Event" in March, about 40 curious customers gathered to listen to a panel of experts arguably more suited for a university symposium on the subject."We

If a little knowledge really is a dangerous thing, you have to give Fairway credit for teaching its customers about organic foods in such frank, detailed terms. When the independent New York City-based retailer hosted its second "Organic Education Event" in March, about 40 curious customers gathered to listen to a panel of experts arguably more suited for a university symposium on the subject.

"We want to educate our consumers, and we're not afraid to tell it like it is," Fairway spokeswoman Tara McBride told WH.

McBride did not say whether these education efforts bore any relation to the 2-year-old Whole Foods store a few blocks away at Columbus Circle, but noted that Fairway, a longtime leader in New York grocery retailing, offers a "huge selection" of organic products, and did not want its customers to get the impression it was jumping blindly onto a bandwagon.

In a wide-ranging, two-hour discussion and Q&A session, the panel explained to customers how to interpret the many labels on products today, such as "all-natural" meat or "free-range" eggs. The group also delved into the access-to-pasture debate now brewing in the organic dairy industry; explained the implications of the controversial Organic Trade Association Ag Bill rider allowing the limited use of synthetic ingredients in organics; and told shoppers that Fairway's staff should always be able to find out where organic products were certified and sourced.

Panelists included Marlo Mittler, Fairway's new nutritional consultant; Urvashi Rangan, director of the eco-labels.org project for Consumers Union; Liana Hoodes, of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture; Kathie Arnold, an organic dairy farmer; Emily Brown-Rosen, an organic certifier; and Todd Jacobs, chef and owner of two Westhampton, N.Y.-based restaurants.