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Products from Japan

For the past month, our hearts have gone out to the people of Japan as we’ve received ongoing news about how the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant disaster is affecting their country and how the crisis extends to the global community. We’ve been assessing food safety concerns carefully and wanted to take this opportunity to share how this disaster is and is not affecting products in our stores. First of all, we do not sell any meat, fresh seafood, any dairy products, or any produce that comes from Japan. Next, none of our 365 Everyday Value grocery items are made in Japan. Our stores stock a small percentage of products actually produced in Japan. Almost all of these are in the grocery department alongside Japanese-inspired foods like cooking sauces, sushi-style rice and seaweed. Some of these items may originate in Japan but others are produced domestically. We are working with our vendors who provide products from Japan to determine how they are responding to this crisis. We will provide regular updates as we learn more, but given the devastation of their country we know that this will take time. In the meantime our major grocery vendors as well as many of our in-store third-party sushi vendors are responding in several ways, and they individually have assured us of one or more of the following:
  • That their product comes from unaffected areas of Japan, far from the four prefectures that have been exposed to radiation near the nuclear plant;
  • That they have switched their product sourcing to unaffected areas of Japan or other countries;
  • That they are closely monitoring government reports and are relying on Japanese health officials and the FDA to prevent any contaminated food from entering the country without testing regimens;
  • That they are testing the products themselves, either before they leave Japan or immediately upon arrival in the U.S.;
  • That they have stopped sourcing products from Japan altogether; or
  • That the Japanese products they offer currently were shipped prior to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
We are also in close communication with our U.S. dairy vendors, including the small cooperatives of farmers who produce our private label milk, about products from the Western U.S. states. They are closely monitoring ongoing FDA and EPA tests from multiple sites. As of today, these tests have consistently shown that milk from California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona is safe. Our produce vendors on the West Coast of the U.S. are also watching test results closely, and many are currently harvesting products that are being grown in other regions. Each day we monitor reports from the FDA, EPA and other government health agencies for the latest information on their efforts in assessing the safety of products from Japan. Of course, we don’t have all the answers and we expect more information to continue to unfold. Check back and we’ll keep you updated as we learn new things. You can rest assured that we are actively engaged in assessing the safety of the products we provide.

And please know that we will continue to work with our Japanese vendor partners to support them through this difficult time. If you would like to help survivors of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami meet their immediate and longer-term needs, you can donate through our fundraising page on Mercy Corp. The Mercy Corp team has delivered emergency supplies — including large shelters, tents, kerosene space heaters, blankets, instant rice and fresh produce — to families evacuated from their homes in four tsunami-stricken cities in northeastern Japan. They’ve also launched Comfort for Kids, a program to help children recover from the emotional effects of a large-scale disaster. Additionally, they’re exploring the possibility of an economic recovery program to help families meet their needs while infusing much-needed cash into struggling local businesses.

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44 comments

Comments

caroline says …

in the map you uploaded above, the sea between Korea and Japan is named East sea(Sea of Japan), not Sea of Japan(East Sea). I would thank you if you change the map which are marked with a right name.

Scott Horwitz says …

Please read this article and give guidance on what independent testing is being done outside of government tested. As has been proven over and over with this event in Japan, both the Japanese and US governments have been slow to react and inform the public, most notably raising the level from 5 to 7, the highest threat level for a disaster such as this. Is WFM having products tested by an outside lab to protect itself and its customers from government misinformation. As a shareholder, I would love to hear a public statement in the media on how WFM is protecting customers. It would probably help bring in new business. Every disaster is an opportunity.

John Sullivan says …

The EPA is doing extremely scattered and random testing in a few parts of the country. The idea that Whole Foods is being diligent by reading some random internet data is not good enough. Whole Foods had better start testing ALL their food for radioactivity. PERIOD.

Concerned says …

I would feel much better if you guys said you were monitoring the radiation in the milk and other produce.It sounds like you are missing the opportunity to lead on this issue. You said you are following the FDA reports, well, so is Walmart and every other food vendor. Pesticides/organic are the least of my concerns at this point. We do most of our shopping at your store but I do not feel very safe after reading your article.

Scott Horwitz says …

sorry, i forgot the link http://www.naturalnews.com/032048_radiation_milk.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Naila says …

The FDA and EPA can't be trusted; for one thing, they keep raising "acceptable" radiation limits. I also urge you to do independent testing. You might also consider printing a leaflet for customers about washing off produce to minimize amounts if total protection can't be assured, since it could reach a point where it's all affected globally. This site raises some of the issues in testing food (the upshot is that it works mainly on larger quantities): http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-12/geiger-counters-to-find-radiation-in-meals-may-be-meaningless-.html

S says …

I'm sorry for farmers and animals in Fukushima. There are many organic farmers in the disaster area. Even if they recovere from the catastrophe, nobody will buy their crops due to the rumor.

Mrs. Capt says …

I wholeheartedly urge Whole Foods to do third party testing! Please read this investigative Forbes article: "Why Does FDA Tolerate More Radiation Than EPA?" http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffmcmahon/2011/04/14/why-does-fda-tolerate-more-radiation-than-epa/

Miu says …

I'm very disappointed in Whole Foods for not selling the foods from Japan, which are checked by both Japan and US government. There are about 440 nuclear power plants in the world, which might be slowly releasing radioactive materials into the air, soil, and water. I'm more worried about the foods which are not checked. I would buy products from Japan.

Car lee says …

Japan nuclear iodine radiation in San Francisco raw milk detected at 2600% EPA drinking water limits and in store bought milk 1045% above EPA limits by the latest University of Berkeley radiation tests. The UCB also claimed that all radiation levels in the milk were starting to level off while the data shows a sharp increase in cesium radiation in their milk samples after their statement. The latest UCB radiation test show two raw milk samples collected before pasteurization and homogenization contained 2.9 Bq/L and 1.49 Bq/L of radioactive iodine. Radioactive Iodine In San Francisco Raw Milk Samples Over 2600 Percent Above EPA Limit Radioactive Iodine In San Francisco Raw Milk Samples Over 2600 Percent Above EPA Limit Iodine Radiation In Raw Milk Sample 2612% Above EPA Limit Conversion of the Radiation In The UCB Raw Milk Samples To EPA Limits.

daniel says …

is it true that a lot of your 365 products are made in china? and they have the USDA organic seal when there is little to no evidence about the quality of the products?

Bepkom says …

@Daniel: No, it is not true. If you'd like to know more, you can read all about about this issue in another blog post: http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2008/06/is-organic-from-china-possible/

Esther Wooden says …

You mentioned that you do not import any fresh seafood from Japan. What about frozen?

Rebecca Wessman says …

Are you also checking produce for fallout? The US is in the jetstream and crops may be picking up radiation that is above normal amounts. Thank you for all that you are doing Whole Foods Market. It is reassuring that their are responsible grocers that are doing all they can to provide the best possible food supply to consumers.

NEW ENGLAND FRESH says …

DEAR WHOLE FOODS ,ON ALL YOUR 365 PRODUCTS, PLEASE PLEASE LIST THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN ON EVERY PRODUCT !!! BETTER YET LETS KEEP IT ALL AMERICAN !!! THANKS MUCH !

Bepkom says …

@New England Fresh: All of our private label products that are sourced from outside the country are labeled as such with the country of origin on the package.

BC says …

Thank you so much for beginning to address important information that is on so many Whole Foods shopper's minds. Truth and clarity in labeling has always been so important, but even more so now. In our local co-op/sustainability meetings, our group has discussed how important it is for shoppers to be informed of the location(s) where not only a product is grown, but also where it has traveled to be processed, packaged and stored. ALL of these locations, if different, should be identified and listed. Obviously, all fresh products grown/produced since mid-march is most critical right now, however, as time goes on, the same truth and clarity in labeling needs to carry thru into processed products as well. We realize that it will take more efforts in the beginning to establish, but once systems are in place, ecomomies will be realized, and yes it will also will make for far more unwieldy and crowded text on labels, but providing this info is more important to shoppers than how beautifully the packages are designed. : ) I also WAY agree with Scott on the VITAL important role of Whole Foods Market to lead the way in utilizing 3rd party testing for levels of radiation particles entering our food supply, as the buying public is (so rightly so) not convinced, quieted or reassured by the FDA's words "declared as safe." Today's buyers want and deserve real numbers, verified by a source they trust, they want specific test results, or at least a reference to specific data, and so should Whole Foods Market. This kind of trust in Whole Foods Market was not given lightly by the growing market of educated consumers. A request to the real people of Whole Foods, the admirable John Mackey and the progressive staff who are in a position to do the best they can to inform and supply healthy and SAFE whole foods. We can all come together and lend our expertise and assistance to work with you to rise above this heartbreaking disaster affecting not only our friends in Japan, but all of us, by taking sustainable, lasting steps to improve protection of non-gmo seeds and organic foods, improving food labeling, increasing the breadth of sustainable food production across our country and around the world. We can utilize this experience as a catalyst to take the health of our world and it's people to the next level. Whew! Obviously I had a lot to get off my chest about this, sorry! But I really mean it all! Best to you all, oxo : )

Ashley says …

Whole Foods- Please comment on the other posts regarding testing. I am also concerned about simply relying on government reports regarding the safety of foods. Additionally, I would like to know more about the standards of sushi vendors in the stores. The standards mentioned in the above post are unfortunately pretty vague and open to interpretation. Last weekend, I inquired about the origin of the fish from a sushi vendor in a Whole Foods store. Not only did the sushi vendor have no idea, Whole Foods Customer Service had no idea either. Regardless of the fact that they are an external vendor, they should be held to the same standards of accountability that I expect from Whole Foods.

Bepkom says …

Thank you for all the comments and expressing your concerns about testing. We are continuing to check with our vendors and collect information about what actions they are taking. We will share more updates as additional information becomes available.

Zaida says …

Dear WholeFoods: Could you please let me know if any of your products that come in bulk (beans, rice, etc.) are from Japan? Thanks.

Diane says …

Excuse me, I see you mentioned Japan, but WHAT ABOUT THE GULF? I don't want to buy seafood from there either......all that oil is just sitting in the ocean....I wish you would address this also......I have been wishing you would for a long time now. I was in the store last week and you had a package of shrimp with a logo that went something like "from the pristine waters of key west"....It is my and a lot of other people's opinions that this is not the case anymore......people from the gulf have websites and what they are saying is in direct contradiction to this statement on your seafood pkg.

Carola says …

And the kelp supplements?

A Japanese living in Tokyo says …

We are currently suffering from harmful rumors about food produced in Japan. All the products which are polluted have not been seld even in Japan, so, they NEVER be exported. We are normally living with all foods made in Japan and do not get any problems here. I am so shocked and sad that you to announce such comments on your homepage even Whole Foods is one of my favorit American supermarkets !

Chris Jones says …

Can only concur with the numerous posts above. Whole foods is far too slow to act researching and providing definative information concerning the absence of radiation in its foods or at least confirm that the levels are low and safe to eat(particuarly concerning food souced from Japan of which new replacment supplies caught or grown post March 12 2011 will soon enter your store). Equally please take a position on the safety of grean leafy vegetables and milk havested in USA and it is time to label where food is grown without exception. A multi million dollar business can afford expert advice and undertake sample testing to alleviate concern and Wholefood should lead the way. If you can not take action to ensure your food is radiation free its only a matter of time before a concerned shopper buys tainted product gets a test and publishing the finding on the net. That news will spread like wildfire. The danger for us is eating unhealthy food and for wholefood your hard earned reputaion created over years is in danger of being damaged. For our and your own ske please get organised and do some testing asap.

Angela says …

Can you post the results of the milk tests you've gotten done? I would prefer to know the level of radioactive cesium and iodine and strontium in the milk rather than relying on you to tell me that it's "safe". The EPA seems content to allow levels that I don't consider acceptable in milk that i'm feeding to my child. (the milk that the UC Berkeley team has been testing exceeds federal drinking water standards). Also, please monitor meat and eggs as well, not just that coming from Japan. This mess has spread all over the globe.

Christine Fasano says …

Hello Whole Foods I'm a concerned mother and do not agree that the local dairy is safe. According to testing done by UC Berkeley the levels of I-131 and C-137 in some local raw milk significantly exceeds EPA drinking water standards. Like many mothers I would prefer to serve my young child food that is not contaminated and unfortunately the food chain in the western states is contaminated right now. I've been looking for produce, meat and eggs that come from different regions of world -- ideally the southern hemisphere but due to your (previously laudable) efforts to stay local, I'm not finding much in your Berkeley or Oakland stores. I hope to see you add in more such products to help us West Coasters through this rough patch. Thank you

Safetyfirst says …

Based onall the data from berkely team the comprehensive test ban treaty and others i would ask whole foods to do third party testing. It doesnt take a scientist or expert to see what is happening with radiation plumes accumulating contamination from japan to hawaii the us west coast and beyond. Guarantee that and you will be my only food source

lisa T says …

We have called corporate offices several times and got zero return call. We posted a request on the CEO's blog; no response. We need weekly updates; the Berkley studies show California food supply radiated: milk, stawberries, spinach, and mushrooms. Now that the iodine levels have fallen off, Berkley study shows cesium on the rise -- as of April 25th. This is of great concern. It is in the soil, grassy, animal milk, vegetables. We understand the jet stream has carried it across many states in USA, as well as rest of world. We understand your job is tough right now but we need answers. Also: how are you testing the fish...got the facts that most of the harmful elements break down in water, and some fish is actually less harmful than products sourced on land/animals.

Daya Callan says …

Hello Whole Foods, I am concerned about the honesty of the FDA, EPA and other government health agencies telling us whether or not crops are contaminated. Companies should test the actual products before distribution to be sure. Please go to the following site (http://www.forbiddenknowledgetv.com/page/1577.html) and watch the story about Sgt Rick Schiff and his daughter. This will give you an idea of how honest the federal government and others are when it comes to financial profit. This Japan incident could be a gold mine for their pockets. These tactics have been going on for a very long time and many people are unaware of it. Investigate the history of the medical and banking industries. The video says it all in a nutshell. I shop at Whole Foods every week and love your store. I hope this video awakens you to a new level of consciousness for yourselves and for the impact you will have on the planet.

R Bishop says …

As a resident of Yokohama, I found your claim that "We will provide regular updates as we learn more, but given the devastation of their country we know that this will take time." to be misinformed at best. Although the tsunami was a horrific event that took the lives of many people, it did not affect the whole country. Japan may be small by American standards but it stretches out. I am not concerned in the slightest about most of the food that comes from this country (which often puts pictures of the individual farmers and their families in with their produce). Please get your facts strait.

vanessa says …

I have been informed by local physicists that we should not be eating any dairy (aged dairy is ok), leafy greens fed by the rain ever again. France has concurred with this and advised of this. So why are is our goverment not doing this? I hope you can get to the bottom of this.

bill brasky says …

i want to know the production dates on the tuna you carry based on their expiration dates. all the brands/types of canned tuna you carry only have exp dates. this should be easy information to get. for example most bottled water you carry has a production date on them, which is how they determine it's shelf live/exp date. where can i get this info concerning tuna?

Priscilla says …

I am a sushi lover and have been avoiding it lately. I understand the fish comes from many different places but I would like to know where the NORI (seaweed) that Whole Food uses to prepare their sushi comes from. It seems like no one has a clear answer to the issue of nori/radiation scare. Thank you and keep up the great work!

Takahiro Kazahaya says …

Dear my best retailer, I have been a huge fan of you since I went to your Ann Arbor, Michigan store in 2006. Thank you very much for your support for Japan. I live in Tokyo, Japan now and I have to still check the places of veges and daily products since the nuclear accident. I think I might have to live with the fear of radiation for the rest of my life. this is so sad.. It was not supposed to start like this. By the way I read this very carefully and I kinda understand your point. Your guideline would be quite reasonable if you think about a lot of your customer. However I would not like you to say `We do not sell any meat, fresh seafood, produce or dairy products from Japan.` I would like you to say something like `we check the level of radiation for all products everyday. we do not carry any harmful products including some products from Japan` You know that some products made in Japan are perfectly safe. This is what I would like my favorite store to do because Whole foods market is very special and the role model of US retailers. Please do not forget that there are many Japanese fans of you even though you do not have any stores in Japan. I still love Whole foods Market very much. Thank you and best regards,

me says …

west, south and north (hokkaido) of japan are unaffected and products from there are fine. test products from some other countries, too.

kay says …

this is a load of crap. People are exposed to more radiation flying in an airplane than being in tokyo. get over yourselves people, and feel mortal.

Ali says …

Anyone notice Michael Bepko stopped answering important questions that were asked? Such as why isnt all the food being tested for contamination? Is frozen fish from japan? We who shop at your stores are educated, informed consumers and we want the truth! We dont want misleading, vague statements! Tell us the real truth so we can make informed decisions to what we feed our families!

mark says …

Its Dec 2011, and food from japan keeps turning up contaminated! I no longer shop at whole food bc they sale more japanese products than walmart! I believe in cross contamination and I don't want my food anywhere near JAPANESE products!!!!!!! I don't trust govnt be it japan and us! Common sense tells you that anything coming from Japan isn't safe albeit cars, sushi, electronics, food, makeup, pharmaceuticals, etc. So at the end of the day, whole food lost me as a customer bc they never pulled japanese products from shelves. I would rather shop at target that carries more US food products. I only shopped at whole food to avoid pesticides but NOW I am trying to avoid RADIATION which is much more dangerous!

LILYAN STERN says …

how can i find out if Benicar HCT a high blood pressure med made in japan is safe from radiation

Larry Pirkle says …

Does this explain why I could not find hijiki on my last visit to the Montrose Houston store? Nor do I find hijiki by searching this site. Thanks.

Larry Pirkle says …

Dear Whole Foods, After reading the previous blog comments, I have decided to stop eating food altogether.

Pia Jensen says …

Can you please update the Fukushima radiation news you have. Japanese farmers have pointed out that gov decontamination programs not working and they are ashamed to sell their products, for example. Also, both US and JP regs on testing have multiple loopholes. Thanks.

Roy says …

Do you test Radiation levels in your fish since Fukashima? Also, do you test levels of Mercury? These are two things that have kept me from enjoying the fish i love. Thank you.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ROY - We do not test fish for radiation. As a grocer we rely on testing conducted by experts, both independent and in the U.S. government. Findings from testing conducted by FDA and independent experts show no evidence of elevated risk from radiation contamination from the Fukushima nuclear accident. If you are still concerned, we recommend choosing farm-raised seafood or wild-caught seafood from the Atlantic Ocean, such as flounder, cod, halibut, or monkfish. Experts we consulted with are not aware of any risk of radionuclides from Fukushima in seafood from these sources. All seafood in our cases is labeled with the Country of Origin as well as whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught. You can find more info about mercury in seafood at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/food-safety/methylmercury-seafood.