I received an email invitation to take a survey from Whole Foods Market. I was happy to do it, and thereby discovered the Whole Foods Market forums. So I happily popped in to see what was happening, and discovered a discussion started in late November 2008, Organic Produce from China?, in which a forum member states:
Imagine my surprise when preparing a dish for Thanksgiving when I discovered that the Whole Foods "365 Organic Chopped Spinach" was labeled "A Product of China". The front of the package is also labeled "USDA ORGANIC". I had a conversation with several Whole Foods employees at the Walnut Creek store, all of which were puzzled and unaware that the spinach was from China. Due to work I spend a lot of time in mainland China (Shanghai, Bejing, Guangzhaou), and like many I am both saddened and shocked by the poor environmental regulation, oversight or even a modicum of real concern about the environment and it’s impact on its citizens.
More worrying yet is the comment:
My wife and I bought the "California medley" which has caulflower and other veggies, but after we had eaten some of it we also were shocked to see it was "product of China."
Since products from China have been a serious concern, as covered in our article, Questioning Chinese Imports, and since we don’t expect Whole Foods to be carrying all-organic-all-the-time, I’d say that it’s time to look a little closer at the labels.
We do have some of the Whole Foods 365 brand frozen vegetables. Most of ours were labeled "Product of USA". However, some did not label the origin of the vegetables — which, given the above discussion, does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Given the sheer number of problems detailed in my Questioning Chinese Imports article — which is a lengthy listing of articles and publications by such organizations as the FDA and the New York Times — and given that we don’t have the time or resources to research everything that comes into the country from China, we’d vowed to stay away from Chinese products, and thought we were doing a good job of it.
I am hoping that Whole Foods will rethink this approach. We shop there quite a lot and have done so for the past twenty plus years (starting with Mrs. Gooch’s before it was acquired by Whole Foods). We’re aware that not all items on offer are organic, and are willing to put in the time to learn what we can and to inspect labels closely. We know that the label "natural" doesn’t mean much legally; after all, dirt and the stuff that oil rigs pump and ships sometimes dump into oceans is "natural".
However, I believe this goes beyond what organic consumers can reasonably expect and should expect.
Meanwhile, we are shopping more at Lassen’s. Stay tuned for our Lassen’s article.
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