Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

 

128 Comments

Comments

dicksonj says ...
Hi, DeceptiveWF! Thanks for your concern. I disagree that the USDA seal implies that the product was grown in the US; the USDA seal means that the product meets the USDA’s organic standards, no matter where in the world it was grown. If this weren’t the case, then only products grown in the US could be called “organic,” and all of the great growers of organic products in countries other than the US would lose their ability to sell their products as “organic” here. We’ve clearly labeled our products from China (and other countries), and have now become more transparent than ever in letting our customers know where our products are from, and why. Here's lots more information we put together: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/issues/organic/globalorganics.html
06/26/2008 10:35:39 PM CDT
Mary Straus says ...
Joe Dickson, I don't see how you can claim that "We’ve clearly labeled our products from China (and other countries)." I'm looking at a package of 365 brand frozen Broccoli Florets and can't find any mention on the label that they are from China. The only information I see is "Distributed by: Whole Foods Market Austin, Texas." The bar code matches the item listed at http://www.acc-tv.com/images/wjla/news/iteamwholefoodslist052108.pdf that says it comes from China. After the massive pet food recalls last year that killed thousands of pets and sickened tens of thousands, I am horrified to learn that I've been feeding these to my dog (who gets a homemade diet). None of the standard testing would have found the ingredients that were finally identified as causing these deaths (melamine and cyanuric acid, which were deliberately added to increase the supposed protein content and thus the value), so your testing doesn't impress me. I would never knowingly buy food from China for myself or for my dog after that, and I feel betrayed that I was tricked into doing so by Whole Foods, whom I used to trust, but never will again -- especially since you're still not telling the truth! I thought I was safe not having to read labels when I shopped at WF; now I feel naive. If I have to read the labels anyway, I might as well shop elsewhere, where it's cheaper.
07/01/2008 12:18:18 PM CDT
Katie says ...
I agree with Madonna. I will not buy any foods produced in China - or elsewhere, for that matter, except for the US. I have not confidence that these foods are truly grown under American standards (which themselves have become overly lax). It makes food shopping more difficult, but I am adamant that my foods are grown in the US or Canada. Besides quality control concerns, I see no reason to spend all the fuel bringing my food from around the world.
10/05/2008 12:16:38 AM CDT
Joyce says ...
Hi, Joe, thanks for this informative post. I have two additional questions: 1) Given the latest melamine controversy in China (e.g. ,http://www.who.int/csr/don/2008_09_19/en/index.html) I was wondering if you could expand a little on the contaminant testing WF performs on its imported organic products. You mention testing for pesticides and heavy metals, but has WF considered testing for microbiological contamination, for instance, or melamine? 2) Whole Foods is recognized as *the* place to shop for those who consider themselves eco-conscious. Importing product from China, especially produce, doesn't seem appropriate for buyers wishing to shrink the size of their carbon footprint. What initiatives has WF pushed stateside, beyond the Go Local campaign, to help buyers support domestic organic producers?
09/28/2008 9:34:52 AM CDT
Marianne says ...
Not only is buying products from China (most particularly food) undertaking a huge risk that I will NOT take with my health or that of my family, but "organic from China" is an oxymoron. Organic farming is a whole philosophy about sustainability, locally grown foods, and minimizing the impact on the environment. It is not simply growing foods without pesticides or herbicides. As a result, Whole Foods' practice of importing food from halfway across the world, "organic" or not, is antithetical to their professed mission and undermines their credibility.
10/03/2008 4:33:22 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Joyce, to address the second part of your question, we do offer support to our domestic producers through the Local Producer Loan Program. More details here: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/values/local-producer-loan-program.php
10/07/2008 1:19:08 PM CDT
Madonna Gauding says ...
Just to let you know, I will not buy any products from China, organic or not. I would prefer to pay more and be sure of the quality. I just don't believe that you are truly able to monitor growers in China and I don't believe that enough testing is being done of the product to determine if it is OK or not. Your explanation was not reassuring.
09/30/2008 12:53:33 AM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Chris The 365 Everyday Value Fish Oil is sourced from fish harvested from the deep cold waters off of the Pacific coast of South America.
11/12/2008 5:09:45 PM CST
Chris Stetkiewicz says ...
I'm done shopping at Whole Foods until it clearly labels country of origin on all its products. Joe Dickson, where does the 365 Fish Oil come from? The label says nothing. WF, we are putting this stuff in our bodies. We deserve to know where it comes from.
11/11/2008 8:54:49 PM CST
Farouk Baxter says ...
BUNK. If it took 3 to 4 pages to explain WholeFood's position on China foodstuff, you haven't convinced me yet! I suggest you make a statement to the food industry and ban foodstuff from China.
11/08/2008 9:51:11 PM CST
RC says ...
Back in the eighties and nineties, the organic industry warned this would happen. The USDA would get involved with organics and basically, screw it up. Whole Foods Market appears to be making the problem worse. USDA rules and inept oversight have allowed thousands of food products from anywhere in the world to flood into the US organic market place, regardless of their true organic status or more importantly, their safety. Aligned with corporate profits, Whole Foods has taken advantage of this opportunity to tap into cheap products and cheap labor (which will ultimately equal inferior products) from third world countries. As a result, we don't know how natural, chemical-free or safe these products are. For example, many thirld world countries still use harmful chemicals like DDT. WF and the USDA can claim all they want that the sources are certified, but in light of the Chinese melamine problems lately, it just goes to show that the further the "arm" of regulation, the less control is obtained. Are you guys naive enough to believe that some poor farmer in a third world country is going to care about sustainable farming practices, pollution, chemicals, contamination, safety, etc.? They are just as happy to take your money and give you whatever product they can produce, good or bad. So, there you have it. We've taken a beautiful idea like organic foods and corrupted it. Unless WF and other large vendors take necessary steps to enforce oversight, the problem will become worse. I highly recommend that the first step you take is to REQUIRE every product give a full list of countries from which EACH ingredient is originated. You don't currently do that for every product. If you are going to "cheap out" on your products, at least let us know which ones you are going to "cheap out" on. Until that happens, I (and others) will start to move away from WF and either back to US conventionally-grown products or locally-grown products. At least, we would have some idea of the truth behind their origins and safety (for better or worse). You guys, on the other hand, have been misleading us into thinking that ANYTHING from WF must be good. This is simply not true. It might even come down to each of us having to grow our own food, like our great-great grandparents did before us. It is a shame how far we've come and yet, how much we've lost. So much for the idea of you get what you pay for...congratulations, I think your company has manage to break the golden rule and get premium prices for inferior products.
11/27/2008 10:37:33 AM CST
Peter Peverelli says ...
Will China be the leader in organic food and ingredients? China is already the third largest producer of organic produce in terms of hectares and the domestic consumption of organic foods is also increasing in the urban regions. Would China have the potential of becoming number one? After some initial research, I have started a campaign in this market. It would be interesting to obtain some feedback on my thoughts. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/3902797/Chinese-Organic-Food-Market-Study An interesting discussion on my proposal has been initiated on Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&gid=36656&discussionID=1259419&goback=.anh_36656
01/30/2009 3:53:30 AM CST
KKP says ...
Are any of you at Whole Foods honestly reading the hogwash that has become the standard Whole Foods Market propaganda? I used to go to the first Whole Foods store in Austin when it was a little store selling organic food, safe from all the things wrong with traditional food. Now when I visit a Whole Foods Market in Houston, I see as much, if not more, "traditional" produce from all over the world, including Mexico. Those of us who grew up in Texas and visited Mexico on family trips learned that, to prevent a nasty stomach bug, we should not eat the produce. Now I can pay an insanely hiked up amount for Mexican non-organic produce because it is sold at Whole Foods. And all of those banners that say "buy local???" Who are you kidding? I challenge you to stroll the produce aisles and find any local produce. Oh, you do sell some honey and a salsa or two that are local, but so does every other grocery store in town. Have you thought about buying from any of the local farmers? Did you ever plan to buy land and create your own organic farms that were, maybe, I don't know, LOCAL? And now, you're trying to convince us that you're growing organic foods in China that we should actually pay Whole Foods prices for and take your word for it that they are safe? Right after you swore never to sell anything with hydrogenated fats, although you will sell high-fructose corn syrup, because it's "natural." Remember when you were the store selling good, local, safe, high-quality food? Surely, Whole Foods Markets is aware that, to your shoppers, organic means much more than just all-natural gardening. When the water is contaminated, the air is filthy and unsafe, the dirt in the ground is not so safe either. How can you believe that you can plop some "organically grown" items down in the middle of a place where everything surrounding your little garden is contaminated? What makes your organic produce different from the organic produce at Wal-Mart now? I think the big joke is that the only difference is that you charge much more for the same stuff that is at Wal-Mart. Do you not realize that much of the value that Whole Foods carries is in goodwill? People trust -- or used to trust -- Whole Foods to make the right decisions for its customers and all of its stakeholders as well as the planet. Now, you are simply another store making a buck -- lots of bucks in your case. I became disillusioned with your stores a long time ago and now do as much of my produce buying as possible at farmers' markets. Even though I found the produce section a joke, I had continued to buy packaged organic items. I'm now returning all of the peanut butter in my pantry and in my refrigerator (already opened) that I now know is from China. Yes, it was there on the label all along. But, guess what? I bought it from Whole Foods, a store I used to trust, so I never thought I had to read the label. Any other store, I would have read the label, but I thought since it was the 365 brand from Whole Foods, that I could buy it without worries. What else are you doing that we will find when we read your labels more carefully? Getting the milk from cows in Russia? You've lost the only thing you really had over all the other stores that now sell organic foods -- my trust.
01/16/2009 1:10:35 PM CST
Lisa B says ...
The fact that Whole Foods is defending the Chinese market is extremely disappointing. Local sources of organic, sustainable, year-round food products are relatively limited, unless you happen to live in certain regions of California, and so I find myself sometimes at the mercy of what Whole Foods has to offer. There is NO WAY, however, that I am going to willingly, consciously consume any food products produced, harvested or in any way sourced from China. The Chinese government, markets and businesses have repeatedly revealed their abuses in various industries, food just being one of them, but quite frankly, the most important of them. I refuse to risk poisoning myself or my family for the sake of saving a pretty penny, supporting and proliferating the growth of a Chinese Organic Market, supposedly suitable for the U.S. Maybe my standards are just set too high, but Whole Foods is increasingly revealing itself to be "big industry", with profit being its ever most important priority.
04/27/2009 4:58:36 PM CDT
Mamazboy says ...
Can't we all just admit that Whole Foods is doing this entirely for economic reasons? There is no reason with the wealth of U.S. organic resources to bother with "Chinese organics." Just like every other American business that's utilizing (exploiting) terribly low-paid workers in China, India, etc. We must take care of U.S. workers first. And the idea that WF can get reasonable, verifiable transparency from Chinese "organic" companies sounds quite far-fetched. It's all about the bottom line here, folks, and it would better if WF could just come out and say so.
05/06/2009 10:38:57 AM CDT
Christine says ...
WHole foods unfortunatelly became a profit-oriented institution folowing Wall-Mart's strategies for stocks since it decreased it's growing. Too bad that money-making goals overpassed the company's primary goals. Food from China????Knowing of all scandals agains regulations, killing from pets to babies? No thanks, Whole Foods, I'll stick with more serious groceries stores. This kind of profit strategy just make you loose your most loyal costumers.
06/17/2009 2:09:04 PM CDT
Gary says ...
I would rather consume conventional produce from a local grocery store than organic Chinese produce from WF. This is a flipping outrage as far as I am concerned. Part of the reason people shop at WF is so that they don't have to be worried or concerned about poor quality. To the point, I recently cooked (but did not consume) some frozen spinach, there was something in the spinach that looked like "green beans". Yeah, maybe it's just me but upon noticing that the spinach was a "product of China" I threw it out along with the other stuff in my refrigerator that were "product(s) of China". This erodes trust and credibility but when WF starts to procure meats from China please clearly display this in a proud fashion so that I can avoid those too. Thank you
06/30/2009 11:08:39 PM CDT
Perri says ...
This is a crock! I will never intentionally buy food from China for my family.
07/09/2009 7:50:43 AM CDT
Seeking 有机 says ...
I'm really surprised at the number of comments that seem to suggest that Whole Foods shouldn't operate with a profit. Whole Foods is not a non-profit organization and yes, they do have a responsibility to their shareholders. These are the people that own the company. Hello? That said, I do have a concern with food from China. I've had five bacterial infections from various trips to Asian countries with better standards than China. All I ask for is choice though. If there are people that want a low-cost Chinese product, they should carry it. I just want a comparable selection of Columbia River Organics Products. I shopped a local Whole Foods after having picked Columbia River Organics Garden Harvest Stir Fry while recently traveling and really enjoying it (many trips back to that Whole Foods over the two week trip.) There were only a few products available and I picked up the closest thing, 365 Thai Vegetable Stir-Fry. I didn't see the China label until I went to cook them. WF - Give your customers a choice. I'd rather pay the same for a 10 oz bag of WSDA Certified Organic vegetables than a 16 oz bag of vegetables from China. This would only increase sales (and therefore profits) as you obviously have a lot of customers that are uncomfortable with the idea of eating produce from China. I'm not sure if the characters after Seeking will come out in the post or not. This is the simplified Chinese characters for "organic." Seeking 有机
09/16/2009 2:16:52 PM CDT
Frank Olivera says ...
A friend of mine works for the EPA in the legal department. I asked about Organics in China. She said not to trust it. I found a news report on this subject and the following statement was said. QAI can not inspect chinese farm, they rely on a goverment agent to inspect... google qai inspecting chinas farms.
10/12/2009 4:02:12 PM CDT
Angie says ...
Personally, I still do not feel secure with any products from China (or other countries) let alone food. I have read about the "audits" that are done. For example, a manufacturer can purchase a $1000. audit or an $8000. audit and still pass but the more expensive audit will be more comprehensive. There is documentation from cases that after passing numerous audits there was tainted food that had to be recalled from those manufacturers. At least in the USA (although there have been cases of tainted food), you know that regulations are stricter than overseas. What chemicals are allowed and handling standards are watched more closely here. Speaking of organics, another problem is that since the "organic movement" is becoming more acceptable and more people are buying into the fact that organics are better for you, many more companies are jumping onto the bandwagon to make money in this area and are lowering the organic standards. One example of this is Horizon. I have red that they are using cows that were not raised organically and using them in their milk production. There are some companies out there that are strictly sticking to the "organic principals" and I will continue to buy their products. I spend hundreds of dollars a month at Whole Foods to buy food for my family that is nutritious and safe. I read the labels carefully and keep up to date on the ingredients terminology as the term for msg and other additives have changed to try to hide them in foods. I also read the frozen packages as I have seen frozen vegetables from China in your stores (although I was told they are about 1% of your inventory). The most disturbing thing for me is when I think I am buying a product from USA and I find out that yes, it was manufactured in the USA but with ingredients from China or other countries. For example, Solgar Vitamins makes vitamins in the USA but with most of the ingredients from China and other countries. I called them and asked where they get their ingredients and they said "China and other countries". There is an 800 number right on the bottle. They are one of the most recommended vitamin companies. Now, I won't buy them but I appreciate their honesty. When this is the case, then it should be labeled manufactured in the USA with outsourced ingredients because technically, these products are not manufactured in the USA just assembled here if the ingredients are foreign. So, with all of this you really can't trust any of it. If it is labeled USA it can be full of ingredients from China. How can we know? There needs to be stricter labeling policies which the food manufacturers are fighting and lobbying in Washington to stop. The more informed consumers are will allow them to choose what they want to consume and not think they are getting one thing when they are really eating something else. Then, when Americans stop buying this foregin food and it starts rotting on the shelves, maybe then manufacturers and stores with stop stocking it. Until then, those who are uninformed and just buy for the pretty packaging, because they liked the commercial or because they don't know where the food is really from, will just have to cross their fingers and hope that their next meal won't be tainted with chemicals, filth or any other foregin object.
12/19/2009 7:39:09 AM CST
Sandy says ...
Whether or not China actually produces organic is not the issue for me. SHIPPING anything that far is bad environmental policy. Yes, it is less expensive for Whole Foods to buy from industrial organic farms in China, but in terms of mass amounts petrochemical product used simply to MOVE that product across the globe is inexcusable. "Industrial Organic" is a compromise at best when feeding thousands of people. We want healthy food for individuals and earth friendly practices. We must look at not only *how* the food is grown, but *how* it comes to our tables, as well. Whole Foods needs to wake up and realize that this group of consumers are a little more savvy than some others. Continuing to pull this kind of BS will lose your company many trusting, loyal clients...myself included.
10/18/2009 12:41:11 PM CDT
lisainphoenix says ...
There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea, and most of them have been covered: the main thing for me is the hypocrisy of "go local-support local" on all the grocery bags-this is a complete farce!! The produce dept is full of oranges from new zealand and australia-tomatoes-cukes-peppers-avocados from Chile and Mexico. What about seasonal organic items that are local-or at least domestic?? And now I look on my bag of frozen broccoli and find that it's "produced in china". The carbon footprint alone is just not lining up for me with Whole Foods philosophy. After reading this on the bag (and after eating lots of it) I am left feeling deceived. Yes I should have looked on the bag-but 365 organic implied to me local or at least domestic organic. Not made in china. ugh! It's so upsetting-my consumer trust has been utterly violated. I do read labels-for ingredients-not where my grocery items, that I am paying premium prices for, are manufactured. I expect to do that in Target for non-food items-but Whole Foods?? I will make every effort to not give another red cent to this company by supporting local stores, farmer's markets and smaller chains. I am so outraged over this Whole Foods!! I find it disgusting that you have lowered yourself to these practices and write on blogs trying to justify it. It in no way is justifiable to those of us who supported this company believing that they are in sync with our beliefs-it simply is not the case.
11/17/2009 12:26:25 AM CST
frank says ...
I find the comments below troubling...angry customers that have not stopped shopping at Whole Foods, therefore, making it obvious your not that angry over organics from China. I shop at Whole Foods but mainly for cleaning products that I can't find elsewhere but shy away from the foods.
11/17/2009 4:23:02 PM CST
Robert says ...
I will not eat any products from china whether you say they are organic or not. I ate pine nuts from china sold at whole foods and now everything I eat tastes like bitter metal for days. I was very dismayed to discover that whole foods was aware of this problem with chinese pine nuts but continues to sell them. You cannot trust whole foods. They will sell products fully aware of harm that may come to customers from eating them.
12/18/2009 10:35:46 AM CST

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