Dole Fresh Fruit Co., a subsidiary of Dole Food Co. Inc today announced that it will begin offering certified organic bananas to consumers beginning in January 2001.

Dole prides itself on offering its customers and consumers the highest quality and widest variety of produce available in the market today. For several years, the company has been conducting research into the production of organic bananas, which are grown without the use of commercial chemicals and fertilizers. Emphasizing improvements in soil fertility, as well as biological and cultural approaches to pests and plant diseases, Dole is now able to add organic bananas to its list of fresh fruit products.

The organic bananas will be grown in Ecuador and Honduras on farms that have been certified as organic by U.S.-based certification agencies and inspected by the Independent Organic Inspectors Association to ensure organic integrity. Initially the bananas will be available to Dole's West Coast customers. Over the following months, the program will be expanded to offer the new organic bananas to all of North America.

Dole has been a leader in the produce industry, demonstrating environmental excellence while growing and marketing high-quality food products. Dole's Latin American subsidiary, Standard Fruit de Costa Rica, was the first major banana-producing area in the world to be certified to the International Organization for Standardization's environmental management system standard, ISO 14001. All of Dole's farms that grow bananas in Latin America and Asia are now certified to ISO 14001.

Sharon Hayes, director of environmental affairs for Dole Food Co., commented: ``Dole has a culture of maximizing environmental performance while providing the highest-quality food in the marketplace today. Dole's production of certified organic bananas is another sign of Dole's commitment to environmental leadership and consumer choice.''

Dole Food Co. Inc., with 1999 revenues of $5.1 billion, is the world's largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh-cut flowers and markets a growing line of packaged foods.