Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Dispelling Rumors: Organics from China

Updated March 1, 2017

Editor's note: An inaccurate news story from 2008 has resurfaced on social media. We've updated this blog post to include an official response from Whole Foods Market: 

"None of the 365 Everyday Value® products we currently offer include organic frozen fruits or organic frozen vegetables from China, with the exception of one product that includes organic soybeans from China. We have a variety of options for organic products, including products grown in the USA. For example, in recent years, we’ve become one of the few retailers to offer a frozen organic edamame that’s grown in the USA, which is stated on the front of the package."

Let’s put a rest to some rumors!

I answer customer questions here at Whole Foods Market. Lately we’ve been hearing from a lot of customers who’ve seen a news story about our frozen vegetables coming from China. It’s actually an inaccurate news story that has resurfaced and is making its way around the internet again. I‘m posting here in the hopes of setting the record straight.

The story, which first aired on ABC affiliate WJLA in 2008, paints the picture that organics from China are not possible.

This is simply not true.

Any product labeled as organic, whether it is grown in the US or any other country in the world, must meet US organic standards. At the time the story aired we debunked its inaccuracies point-by-point right here on our blog. Since then, we’ve also made some changes to our product lineup worth mentioning. In 2010 we stopped sourcing any 365 Everyday Value® frozen fruits and veggies from China, with the exception of frozen edamame (organic and non-organic).

To be clear, we did not make this change because of quality concerns, we were simply able to find other sources for these products at better prices.

Again, any product sold as organic in the US, regardless of where it’s grown, must be certified to the USDA's National Organic Program standard by a USDA-accredited certifier. In July 2011, the National Organic Program released a report on its mission to China to assess the competence of its certifiers and the integrity of organic certification and products there.

The USDA investigators found that certifiers working in China were highly competent and able to ensure the integrity of organic products grown in China. 

If you’d like to read it for yourself, we hope you’ll check out the USDA’s assessment on their website. The biggest point I want to make is that you have a choice. The country of origin is printed on every single bag of our frozen 365 Everyday Value® fruits and vegetables.

If the source is consistent it’ll be printed on the back label and if the country of origin might change you’ll find it printed with an inkjet printer on the back label near the expiration date and lot code.

If you’re looking for frozen fruits and veggies grown in the US, we have an exclusive brand of domestically sourced frozen products from Columbia River Organics.

At Whole Foods Market, we will continue to build relationships with all of our suppliers across the globe, and we take great care to be sure our vendor partners in China have the same commitment to quality as our suppliers in the US and the rest of the world.

Thanks for reading through this. My team’s always here to help, so email us if you have any questions!

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123 comments

Comments

Chris Downs says …

I purchase as much produce that is grown here locally at whole foods. I appreciate the fact that when I come in that the produce person knows the farmers and their land when I come in. As a Permaculture fanatic, we need to heal our land by our choices everyday. Food grown locally is the best for the people that it feeds. Inform yourself and your family about the food you eat. That is the reason when I do not grow my own, I come to whole foods. I talked to a young student who works in a store in California. you can read my visit with him at http://hisfarm.org/1593/permaculture/the-blessing-of-permaculture/. He had not even started working yet, and he had given up on being able to eat properly or make enough money to live healthy because he thought Organic food was too expensive. What is too expensive is having to pay people to practice medicine on you,using drugs and proceedures that other people may or may not have survived. You are what you eat,but you will also become what you think and speak. Take action by eating healthy and informing yourself about your permanent culture all around you. It is not permanent unless you work at it!

Biggest Truth says …

I'm blessed with being very near to Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, a super-elite Krogers with lots of organic items, packaged & fresh, along with 3 independent natural food markets. The only thing nice about Whole Foods is when they have a sale on certain packaged or bottled items. Then, if you buy a case, you'll save an extra 10%. WFM return policy is OK, as long as you have the receipt. Trader Joe's return policy is the best. NEVER any questions asked. Greeniac sheeple, vote with your wallet and practice what you preach. The real owners of WFM are stock shareholders who only care about their dividends. Most of them don't even know or care what organic food is.

Teresa says …

Food from China contradicts everything I thought Whole Foods was. I feel mislead & very disappointed. Most products from China have been in the news for some time now because they have proven to be unhealthy not because they are good for consumption.What happened to Whole Foods locally grown food concept? I can't believe in the United States we have a shortage of locally grown organic food....there are farmer's markets in just about every town. I for one will not pay top dollar for food from China

S says …

SO disappointed that WF has not stepped up to eliminate toxic Chinese foods from its shelves, not to mention using misleading labels and/or totally leaving off the country of origin, as is the case for MANY products in WF stores. It is widely known (or readily discovered w/an online search) that Chinese officials stand in the way of third-party certification inspections, leaving inspectors to take the producer at his word regarding the quality control protocols of the facility, so for the WF public-relations folks to say that their products are 'certified' is absolutely meaningless. Check food labels dutifully for country-of-origin info, regardless of the name or brand on the product, if you care at all about avoiding inferior and/or potentially-toxic Chinese foods.

Julie near Chicago says …

I think Mr. Mackey should be ashamed to consider himself a "libertarian" and in favor of "liberty" when he helps, by purchasing its products, to enable a horrendous slave state to continue its monstrous treatment of many of its people. We are talking about real, severe, physical torture here--the forced labor camps...the forced abortions...the "disappearances"...the outright murders...before we ever get to corruption. Never mind food--even selling reusable shopping bags from China is a betrayal of the principles for which I thought he claims to stand. It's up to all of us to forgo as many products from China as we possibly can. Because when we deal with them--we deal with cold-blooded murderers.

Barbara Willett says …

Frozen vegetables from China? Really? The very logistics of this would confound a 10 year old. The pretzel like thought process and business acceptance of this practice has any reasonable person shopping elsewhere. What an outrage and slap in the face to American producers.

Kailua Hawaii says …

I found this thread while looking for WholeFood's policy on goods from China. I'm disappointed with what I've found, the policy is contrary to a widely distributed (but obviously incorrect) policy making the rounds here. Mahalo for the ability to comment on it, but the WholeFood myth is about to be exposed for what it is.

James says …

What I find so funny is that fact that Chinese dont even trust there own country, ask a mainland chinese not a ABC and etc. And ask them if THEY TRUST the gov and if THEY trust chinese products. Many of them say NO WAY! They rather buy a foreign brand or product then there own because they understand what china is really like. They lie and cheat and do anything to cut the cost of something. I work with many mainland chinese and the key is MONEY, and they will do anything to cut the cost. However what this company needs to do is look at countries such as ITALY. Because all of the products in Italy is 100% ORGANIC! If you are caught in Italy using any GM product its 50000EUR fine + 3 years in prison. It is one of the countries which export a lot of product to Germany and Japan, because they want the BEST. However like many companies they think about profit margins :)

Tenzo says …

Lead paint in childrens toys banned chemicals in drywall poison in dog food. Sorry, I value my famlies health to much. Until the sourced food from China is marked from China, I will be shopping at other grocery stores. 15 years.....and bye

Carol says …

I don't trust food from China. They poisoned their own baby formula to make more money. It was illegal for them to do that but they did it anyway and after being caught and shamed by the world they did it again. They sent poisoned protein that was added to our pet foods that killed many of our pets knowing it was illegal and lethal. I do not believe there is any law that or oversight group that will prevent some Chinese producers from lying, using unlawful pesticides, farming practices etc. for a larger profit. I am sure there are ethical farmers as well but without more oversight than is currently provided I will not buy food from China.

Louise Melanson says …

Frozen organic broccoli from China??? Gee. It wouldn't be because you maximize profit by importing food from desperate, impoverished countries...good old globalization..dumbing down the world with cheap labour and the third world standards that go along with it. But wait, why not import the cheap Chinese prison labourers and put them to work in California, thus saving even more money in shipping costs? See, you just need to displace American farmer workers...(well hey, it's been done before. All those Mexicans picking fruit. What would happen if only Americans were allowed to pick the fruit? Would the wage go up? Would farmers really go broke? Or would we just pay more as a result, and forgo other material items, knowing that what could matter more than what we eat??) Listen...this Canadian girl wants her broccoli to come from California, not China. If my choices are between pesticide-laden non-organic produce from anywhere in North America versus the purest, sun-kissed "organic" food from China, then I will pay twice the amount for the former and here's why: anytime American farmers benefit, I do too, so I'll pay double if it means we both win. We have high standards here in North America. Anytime pink slime is found on meat, we're on it like velcro. Whatever problems we have, it becomes public, and then we correct it. (Or else!). We want accountability because we are used to high standards. Everyone values high standards. It is time for Whole Paycheck..I mean Whole Foods, to get some standards.

Suzanne M.Collins says …

I am glad to have read the above - as I was ready to go back to Giant & Safeway food stores for my frozen fruits & vegetables?! Being a believer of organic produce, I was driving from Virginia to Rockville when the first Fresh Fields was created.... it is a pleasure to have had (and for quite a while now), a Whole Food Market at the corner of Rolling & Old Keene Mill Rds. in Springfield, VA - which happens to be close to my residence. Thank you so much for the information.

Francis says …

It is quite interesting for us to blame other countries (especially China) for anything, in this case, the organic produce. I recently just returned a can of organic Almond Butter back to Trader Joe because it is contaminated. The label says that it meets the USDA requirements. But, I do not see this issue announced to the public at all. Plus, many countries refuse to import US beef (MAD COW). I think we should be very careful not to believe rumors and especially from our Government sometimes.

Ellen says …

Sorry Whole Foods, but you have lost another customer. You are suppose to be supporting Local Farmers not other countries. I will never buy there again. You are able to buy either straight from the farmers or organic food at other grocery stores now without the higher prices.

Jessica Kendrick says …

[Do not post - MM] I believe this was AFTER many recalls on toys with lead and other poisonous chemicals. It really does make me stop and evaluate the seemingly wholesome company I buy from. And to have almost all of your veggies imported from China when American farmers need support.....Plus the fossil fuels it costs to ship such a load from China....pitiful. Poor choices were made for this company regarding ethics vs. $$$. Glad y'all have fixed it but I was unhappy and skeptical when I read that Whole Foods was selling the NON regulated sprouts--which could be inorganic or organic...mixing the bunch up. I suppose it is a hard call to make when Monsanto practically runs the FDA and EPA. That leaves little choices for a company like yourselves. However the managers of these stores or area directors SHOULD buy and sell from the local farmers instead of IMPORTING TONS from China. http://archive.truthout.org/big-win-biotech-usda-deregulates-monsanto-alfalfa67373 But hey, maybe it's just me.

Janet Nock says …

How shocking that Whole Foods sources food from China. A couple of weeks ago the WF in Pittsburgh had a sale on large shrimp. When I inquired as to their source, I was told it was Asia. Can't remember if it was Thailand, Indonesia, China. They all are suspect, since there is a ton of information documenting that farmed fish from Asia are swimming in polluted waters. When I mentioned this to the fish monger, he discounted that information, saying that the ones farmed for WH are in clean water. Yeah. And I have a bridge you might like to buy. I don't need cheap shrimp badly enough to compromise my family's health.

Karin Megan says …

How often do they check producers' fields to see if they truly grow their vegetables and fruits organically. They cannot be present every day of the year. Do they perform actual tests on the vegetables randomly to see if pesticides were used? I am going to buy an expensive juicer and I pray that the fruits and veggies I buy at Whole Foods are truly organic. Thank you!

frances collier says …

I can't find Columbia River organic peas and carrots for sale at the Brighton Ma store... used to buy this every week and wonder why you're not stocking it now. It's much superior to your 365 brand of peas and carrots, in my opinion.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KARIN - As mentioned in the post above, the country of origin is printed on every bag of our 365 Everyday Value frozen fruit and veggies. If you plan on using frozen products for your new juicer, you have the choice to purchase items from a specific country you are looking for. If you plan on juicing with fresh items from Produce, you should see the location of where the products come from on the signage. If you don't see it listed, ask a Produce team member as they would be happy to help!

Robert Hunt says …

Im just wondering how many of you complaining about China go into a Walmart. Dont get me wrong I try to buy nothing from China.

Mike says …

Shame on you WF. Another company becomes successful based on their "virtues" and then sells out to greed. I spend my hard earned money in your store so i don't have to worry about what's in my food. But now I do. I need to rethink things.

laura Norton says …

Dear Sirs, I have been very disappointed in the use of canola oil used in your prepared foods and I have even found it in the use of your 365 raisons? Canola should not be used in any form..organic or not!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LAURA - Thanks for your feedback. There appears to be much confusion concerning the safety of canola oil. Whole Foods Market believes canola oil is a safe and wholesome food and, therefore, will continue to sell it in our stores. In order to ensure the highest quality oil possible, we feature expeller-pressed, organic canola oil in our stores. Accordingly, each individual is free to choose whether or not to buy canola oil or to choose from one of the other many culinary oils we sell.

Lee Mesner says …

As someonevwho has shopped at Whole Foods in different states for years, I and is very conscious of what I eat, I refuse to eat any food coming from China, organic or not. They probably bamboozled the Inspectors during their visit. I will observe the package more clearly.

Kathleen says …

I heard about 365 frozen fruit being from China and saw the packaging in the news clip outside the store where they saw 'from China ' on the package. I recently went to see for myself because I wanted orgain frozen blueberries and could not find country of origin on the package. So Whole Foods, your response to customers' outrage is to remove the evidence? If you continue this type of action in response to customer anger you are going to lose credibility. You have with me!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KATHLEEN - There is a good deal of misinformation circulating regarding 365 products from China.  Much of this information stems from a 2008 news piece that is both inaccurate and outdated. As of the summer of 2010, we are no longer sourcing any of our Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value frozen vegetables from China EXCEPT for frozen edamame (shelled and unshelled, organic and conventional).

ANDREW says …

Please make your packages more clear as to where the product is actually from. As it is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out. And don't get me wrong i love your stores, but if this keeps up you will lose a lot of business me included.

Sue says …

Wow. I am just shocked that Whole Foods is willing to offer anything from China. I don't have time to read every label while I am grocery shopping and now feel that I would have to do that in your store. I have shopped at Whole Foods for years, oftentimes driving over an hour to get to your store. How are we to trust your prepared foods in your deli or salad bar as they are never labeled? Sorry, but until you make a commitment to keeping us safe from China and their tactics, I am afraid that my $300 per week is going to have to go somewhere else. I am not going to pay your high prices when you are buying from China. And sorry, I don't believe anything is really organic over there. Their pollution alone makes it all unsafe in my book.

Jason Marino says …

At better Prices!?! At better Prices!?! At better Prices!?! If I were concerned about prices, I wouldn't be shopping at Whole Foods. I do not want products from China and do not care at all about what the USDA says about it. I do not want to purchase from China, because I do not want to contribute to the trade deficit and China is evil from an environmental perspective. I do not want to have to check labels either. I expected better from Whole Foods and will not allow my family to shop there any longer. I plan to spread this message everywhere in hopes it will change your misguided ways.

Pattyjuozaitis says …

I will not even touch any food from china. I wil go without if I even suspect it is from china. I am shocked that your store would even think of using that disgusting crap they call food. You clearly have never lived there. Organic, China, come on! Shark fin soup anyone? Can you say "Slave Labour."

Neil says …

Wondering if this thread could be updated - published "cancer village" map as well NPR marketplace reports in April 2013. Thanks wfm for considering. Neil

Nancy Stevens says …

To be completely candid, I was shocked to read the label on the Dried Edamame I just brought home from Whole Foods: "Product of China". The U.S. produces over half of the world's soybeans! Why on earth is Whole Foods sourcing their food products from China? The previous posts state more eloquently than I am able to do now on just how disappointing it is for loyal customers paying premium prices to learn that their food is coming from China. How many of the ingredients in the prepared fresh foods and salads are from China? As customers, we have no way of knowing this. Those items are not labeled with 'country of origin'. Truly disappointed in Whole Foods on so many levels.

Ronda says …

Recently I started drinking Do Matcha tea from Japan. I researched matcha tea before starting to drink it and learned that tea from China is not recommended due to the lead content due to air pollution in China. This seems like another issue we should consider before consuming organics from China. I really don't like how small the China label is on your Pinenuts and pumpkin seed bins. Another consideration are vitamins. I think vitamin companies should have to state on their label where their ingredients are sourced from.

Joanne McLeod says …

I am only interested in buying vegetables and fruit grown in North America. Can I find them at Whole Foods? It is a simple question which does not require a diatribe defending the ethics or capabilities of the Chinese.

Claudia says …

Hi, i guess i am just surprised that Wholefoods would sell foods from China. I mean Wholefoods is pro for the environment and makes sure that their products are not tested on animals, etc..and buying from a country like China is like going against everything that you are. China has the worst laws for child labor and labor in general. China eats dog meat and they are proud of it...they even call it a tradition. China has no laws for animal rights. And, is by far the country where most animal abuses take place and to mention a few: animals trapped for their fur to be skinned alive in fur farms, animals boiled alive to end of plate, abuses in zoos, etc. Buying from China is basically telling the Chinese that in our view is ok what they do. And, i strongly disagree with this. I have been buying frozen veggies from China? where i myself try boycott anything that comes from that country? it makes me angry and disappointed. And, makes Wholefoods look like their values are a joke.

elaine says …

Just bought pine nuts from Whole Foods and realized they were produced in China. Bye Bye Whole Foods!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You continue to lose your crediability as being a step above big box grocery stores. I was thrilled when WF moved to Charleston SC to provide excellent products and now you have succumbed to CHINA IMPORTS!!!! Do you buy chicken, shrimp, and rice from them also?

JT says …

I buy organic leafy greens every week, along with many other organic vegetables. A new Whole Foods store opened up in my area so I thought about finding out what Whole Foods has in their produce section that is organic. Nothing is labeled, the produce was not packaged, there was no packaging with a USDA seal on it, it just says "organic" on a little shelf tab. I walked out right then and there. Now to find out it is most likely from China. That is just sickening. I feel bad for all of those gullible people who shop there without educating themselves first. I'll never buy anything from Whole Foods. They must think we are all idiots. I also found out about their connection with Monsanto. It sounds like this company is going to implode at some point, especially with easy access to information on the internet.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JT - All of our produce items should list where the item is grown. If it is not on the chalkboard then it's possible that the tag on the produce will have the location. Lastly, you can always ask a produce team member and they can definitely find out for you.

Javaywo says …

From a company like yours, it is completely unconscionable. I don't buy pet food from China. Why would I buy food for human consumption from China. Really, you need to rethink this, I know it's been a while, I just hope people continue to "re-post" this old article.

Alice Etienne says …

I am adamant about eating vegetables grown in the US. During the spring and summer months I support the local farmers and during winter months I search for frozen vegetables only grown in the US. I have even frozen my vegetables during summer months,but due to my hectic schedule I never have enough to sustain me through the winter months. Many stores do not give you an option. Thank you for that option!!! My only disillusionment is that you have to pay an arm and a leg to eat food grown in your country, but I guess that's the price you have to pay for being in the minority.That being said I still want to express my gratitude.

Jack says …

I am not only concerned about "365" branded "organic" frozen foods sourced from China, but all "365" branded products irregardless. Over time, cheaper "365" branded goods have taken over locally sourced goods in stores on every shelf (at least here), not only eliminating the very "local sourcing" that is at the very foundation of Whole Foods, but also eliminating the ability to see where something was made. All "365" branded goods have "distributed by" or "manufacture for" "Whole Foods, Austin, TX" on their labels, pretty much hiding the source supplier, meaning any/all goods could be coming from China. Some of my favorite local brands have disappeared from store shelves and are replaced by "365" with generic labels hiding the source/supplier. I like to ensure that I buy everything local/county/state/US, in that order. I buy nothing labeled "365" as there is no guarantee where it was sourced and due to the lower prices, it could all very well be coming from China. If Whole Foods continues to erode local brands and replace product with their own, I will no longer shop there as it no longer becomes a "farmer's market" but just as generic as all big box retailers which sell everything (made in China) under their own cheap brands. Please reverse this trend and stop invading the shelves with your own labels whose origins we cannot trace. Or at least print on all products where it was made (company, city, state).

Alma Thomas says …

I am concerned about the USDA decision to allow chicken to be grown in the US and processed in China without being labeled as such. I have been to China... Despite your statement to the contrary, I cannot believe that any food grown, processed or shipped from China can be safe, even if labeled organic. I depend on Whole Foods to provide organic food for my family. How will I know if the food I am buying has been off-shore? FYI... I trust you more than the USDA... I don't trust the USDA AT ALL... So if you tell me you are relying on the USDA, it is a no go for me.

Tony Maietta says …

Thank you for the clarification. But you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't address the most shocking part of the video, granted it's five years old. The "California Vegetables" label was hard to get around. You really should address that. It was misleading at best. To leave that out of this response, is a big mistake and isn't helping your case. It's hurting it more.

McNutt says …

Everyone wants to wave their American flag, while they wear there USA t-shirts. Yet no one wants to pay the price of locally produced products or simply put - they can not afford to. Our society is so backwards right now. The 1% make their money off the backs of the poor. We exploit China and India with no concern at all. As long as its cheaper. We are doomed. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Betty Belmonte says …

Can you tell me where the organic 365 mixed vegetables are grown?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BETTY - The country of origin (which should also be on the package) is the USA.

chungbin yim says …

"To be clear, we did not make this change because of quality concerns, we were simply able to find other sources for these products at better prices." Please do not insult consumers' intelligence. You just happened to find "other sources" conveniently at this juncture? And of course "at better prices" which is the bottom line of your business, NOT "better quality."

Carol Lohaus says …

Will you be getting any chicken products from China?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CAROL - Our chicken suppliers for our North American stores are in the US and Canada, no facilities are located in China.

Brandi says …

There are only about 5% or your customers who listen when you say "USDA approved." DO NOT EVER think that such a statement is ok to hide behind when making business decisions. We buy organic because USDA and EPA and whatever gov approved is meaningless to us. Nothing but bought out lies to comfort the ignorant and ignorant ppl do not tend to shop at your store. You make plenty, we are willing to pay plenty, don't screw it up.

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