Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Products from Japan

By Paige Brady, April 8, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
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.
Category: Food Issues




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.
04/11/2011 2:11:07 PM CDT
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?
04/12/2011 7:44:53 PM CDT
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/
04/12/2011 7:45:03 PM CDT
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.
04/13/2011 11:20:16 AM CDT
Scott Horwitz says ...
sorry, i forgot the link http://www.naturalnews.com/032048_radiation_milk.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
04/13/2011 11:20:35 AM CDT
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.
04/13/2011 1:57:42 PM CDT
04/13/2011 8:33:38 PM CDT
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.
04/13/2011 8:34:20 PM CDT
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 : )
04/13/2011 8:48:36 PM CDT
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.
04/14/2011 9:38:55 AM CDT
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.
04/14/2011 2:24:25 PM CDT
Esther Wooden says ...
You mentioned that you do not import any fresh seafood from Japan. What about frozen?
04/14/2011 5:42:58 PM CDT
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
04/16/2011 4:57:48 PM CDT
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.
04/17/2011 12:25:21 PM CDT
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.
04/18/2011 4:51:09 AM CDT
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/
04/20/2011 9:44:08 AM CDT
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.
04/21/2011 12:35:35 PM CDT
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.
04/24/2011 12:38:39 AM CDT
Carola says ...
And the kelp supplements?
04/24/2011 5:48:17 AM CDT
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.
04/24/2011 7:29:47 AM CDT
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 !
04/24/2011 9:00:18 AM CDT
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.
04/25/2011 10:43:25 AM CDT
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.
04/27/2011 4:35:35 PM CDT
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
04/27/2011 4:48:26 PM CDT
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
04/27/2011 6:28:35 PM CDT