The Oldest Natural and Organic Food Company in North America Files Suit Against the HHS Mandate, Outraging A Vocal Minority

Michael Potter, founder of Eden Foods

No, it’s not Kraft Foods, or Mondelez International, or any of the other gigantic food processors you may have heard of. The firm is named Eden Foods, and it has been in business for 45 years. According to their website,

Eden is the oldest natural and organic food company in North America and the largest independent manufacturer of dry grocery organic foods. We are deeply rooted in Michigan about twenty miles southwest of Ann Arbor. It is here we manage grower relations, manufacturing, trucking, quality control, customer and retailer services, marketing, import/export, accounting, databases and websites.

Over 95% of EDEN foods are sold in natural food stores, co-ops, and supermarkets via traditional natural and grocery distribution channels. Web site, employee, and wholesale sales make up the remainder.

Last year the New York Times did a little piece on the organic food industry, discussing Eden Foods, and it’s president Michael Potter, as being “one of the last little big men left in organic food” in a field surrounded by giants who perhaps use the term “organic” a bit loosely. They even did a neat little video that featured Mr. Potter.

After all, Eden Foods is on the forefront of the movement to limit genetically modified organisms from flowing unchecked onto our pantry shelves.

Back on March 21, 2013, Eden Foods filed suit against the HHS Mandate, with legal representation by the Thomas More Law Center. In the press release, TMLC shared the following information,

Interestingly, for years, Michael Potter was able to exclude from his company’s Blue Cross policy, insurance coverage for contraception and abortion inducing drugs, categorized by Blue Cross as “Life Style” drugs.   However, last week Potter discovered that Blue Cross inserted the HHS mandated coverage without his knowledge or consent.

The first paragraph of the lawsuit succinctly sets forth the nature of the case: “This is a case about religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father of our country, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and our third president, when describing the construct of our Constitution proclaimed, ‘No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.’”

The purpose of the lawsuit is to seek a court ruling that permanently blocks implementation of the HHS Mandate against Michael Potter and his company Eden Foods, Inc.

So why is this news today? Because folks at places like the Daily Kos weren’t happy with this decision by Eden Foods. They began posting articles with titles like, Puritanism at an organic food company, which piggybacked off of opinions from an article at Salon published a week earlier with this title,

Organic Eden Foods’ quiet right-wing agenda: A crunchy, natural food company marketed to liberals discreetly sues to stop covering employees’ contraception.

But the company never did cover “Life Style” drugs like artificial contraceptives, remember?

So today, Mr. Potter responded with this letter to those who took umbrage with Eden’s action, and to all their customers,

17 April 2013

Greetings,

Please be discerning consumers. Grotesque mischaracterizations about Eden Foods’ action related to the Health & Human Services (HHS) mandate, Affordable Care Act, are most regrettable.

On March 21st, 2013 a press release announced our lawsuit against the unconstitutional government overreach in the HHS mandate. This announcement was made to the media and general public. We apologize for the unintended consternation given rise to by this action.

Eden Foods’ health care provider is required by the HHS to comply with all details of the Affordable Care Act. Parts of the mandate violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. This overreach of the federal government infringes on religious freedoms.

It is discriminatory that not all employers have to comply with the HHS mandate. Millions of people and thousands of companies are exempt. The exemptions under the Act are illogical, inconsistent, and contributing factors to our lawsuit. For instance, McDonald’s Inc. and 166 unions are exempt. Small employers are exempt. Individuals who practice certain faiths are exempt, while individuals who practice other faiths are not. Federal employees are exempt, and this is hypocritical. There is no exemption for the religious freedoms of employers.

Eden employee benefits include health, dental, vision, life, and a fifty percent 401k match. The benefits have not funded “lifestyle drugs,” an insurance industry drug classification that includes contraceptives, Viagra, smoking cessation, weight-loss, infertility, impotency, etc. This entire plan is managed with a goal of long-term sustainability.

We believe in a woman’s right to decide, and have access to, all aspects of their health care and reproductive management. This lawsuit does not block, or intend to block, anyone’s access to health care or reproductive management. This lawsuit is about protecting religious freedom and stopping the government from forcing citizens to violate their conscience. We object to the HHS mandate and its government overreach.

This is an important matter that deserves attention from us all.

Our actions have been, and will remain, principled and transparent. Eden’s focus is pure food, ethical business practice, and the nurturing of all people and the planet.

Respectfully,
Michael Potter, President

Responding to this letter is what folks at the Daily Kos are engaged in now, labeling Mr. Potter as a “fundie.”

In a post from a while back, I noted the irony of utilizing artificial hormones for birth control, while eating organic foods these days is all the rage. It seems that this example of cognitive dissonance is lost on many. Then, as now, I noted that taking “organic” to its natural conclusion is the healthier alternative.

But alternative choices are not allowed under the HHS Mandate, even if they are healthier for you. As it is, EdenFoods is doing what they feel compelled to do in order to fight to operate the company under the rights they thought were already guaranteed them by the First Amendment.

UPDATES:

Simcha Fisher and I are like minded: So Long, and Thanks for All the Intersex Fish.

Want to support Eden Foods? Go like their Facebook page. Support them at Standing With Eden Foods, too.

Are birth control pills polluting our water?

An interview with the scientist who gave a lecture entitled “Long-term Environmental Impact of Birth Control: The Release of Estrogens into the Environment.”

Artificial does not mean “organic.”