“The campaign is clearly a response to criticism the chain has taken for becoming what critics contend is a corporate sellout.
The new campaign highlights Whole Foods' long-standing rigorous policies, such as barring from the store any artificial ingredients, antibiotics and hormones in meat and unsustainable seafood.
But what the extensive web site and the call-to-arms campaign neglect to mention is that some of those very "walking food science experiments" appear on shelves at Whole Foods. Last summer, CEO John Mackey admitted that the company he helped create now sells "a bunch of junk."
This "junk" could include some of the food products Whole Foods sells under its own 365 label -- items like 365 Cosmic Coco's and 365 Cheese Puffs for example.
“As Whole Foods pushes towards healthy eating and food reform, the real question is whether it also quietly yanks any of these products from the shelves.”
Certainly, Whole Foods Market has been one of the leading pioneers in helping bring back healthy organic, unprocessed foods to the mainstream market. Unfortunately, it’s hard to maintain the core values of organic, locally-grown foods when you grow into a multi-billion dollar company.
Whole Foods now has more than 270 stores throughout North America, Hawaii, and the UK, and like most large corporations, it has shareholders to contend with, and that means profit ranks very high on the corporate agenda.
As a result, Whole Foods has faced its share of criticism for veering off the local, sustainable, organic path. And rightly so. It’s hard to justify selling frozen, supposedly-organic vegetables from China at premium prices when there’s little evidence that China conforms to organic standards.
There’s also the question of the environmental impact of this type of practice (which is by no means limited to Whole Foods). Is shipping produce, even if it is 100 percent organic, from one end of the earth to the other in the best interest of the whole?
Whole Foods Faces More Legal Trouble Over its Organics
Last month, an article published by TheEnergyCollective.com discussed a lawsuit against Whole Foods, filed by a group called the Southeast Consumer Alliance. It states:
“The suit, which is seeking class-action status, alleges that Whole Foods violated Florida’s deceptive and unfair trade practices act by labeling as “organic” foods from China that were “the product of a venture using forced labor” and “were not properly certified under the National Organic Program (NOP).”
The allegation that foods imported from China don’t meet organic standardsdeserves to be taken more seriously. It’s not new: In 2008, Roberta Baskin, a reporter with an ABC-TV station in Washington ran a story questioning China’s organic standards (available here) in which she pointed out, among other things, that [Whole Foods’] 365 Brand frozen “California style” vegetables are imported from China.
The issue isn’t hypothetical. The TV station tested powdered ginger that was sold as organic at Whole Foods and found it contained a pesticide called Aldicarb. The company pulled the ginger off its shelves, as did others who imported the ginger.”
I agree that the issue of ‘what makes organic truly organic?’ is an important one, because the ramifications of cheating are so detrimental.
More and more people are waking up to the fact that our modern food supply consists of mostly “food like” products with little real nutritional value, and are actively seeking out healthier food sources.
The problem is, who can you trust? There are no cut-and-dry answers, only guidelines.
I personally regularly shop at Whole Foods, and I sincerely hope they take their new campaign seriously and make the necessary policy changes to truly live up to their name and their original ideals.
After all, the Whole Foods’ motto:
“Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet--emphasizes that our vision reaches far beyond just being a food retailer. Our success in fulfilling our vision is measured by customer satisfaction, Team Member excellence and happiness, return on capital investment, improvement in the state of the environment, and local and larger community support.”
Currently, only about 30 percent of their fresh produce comes from local producers, which is intermingled with conventional produce from around the world, and other conventional food items throughout the store. This makes label checking even more important, not less so, especially since they’ve recently been exposed of selling conventional produce under the organic label, and charging for it as such.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Whole Foods would indeed revert back to its roots of being true distribution centers for locally-grown organics? I think so, and I actually believe it could still make plenty of money for its shareholders without cutting corners.
There are Plenty of Reasons to Join the Food Revolution
With nearly 7 out of 10 Americans being overweight, and 1 in 4 being affected with diabetes or pre-diabetes, the American diet is clearly in dire need of a radical overhaul. Drugs won’t fix these dismal health statistics. Only a return to sane, healthy eating habits will.
If you still have not taken a long, hard look at your diet, I urge you to evaluate what you’re really feeding yourself and your family on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, many people simply don’t know how to cook with fresh ingredients anymore. That’s how far we’ve strayed from OUR roots. British chef, Jamie Oliver, has realized this travesty and has launched a campaign to teach Americans how to cook again.
Most chefs teach you how to switch up the flavor. Oliver teaches basic skills to save your life – cooking is that important!
I’ve said this for many years, and it’s worth repeating many times over because it’s one of the main solutions to the obesity epidemic – cook your food from scratch, at home!
Many people are under the mistaken impression that cooking from scratch is an extremely complicated affair that takes lots of time and costs more than they could possibly afford. More often than not, this is simply not true, but they’re the most common excuses for poor eating habits you’ll ever hear.
In this previous article, Colleen Huber offers a list of helpful guidelines on how to cook whole food from scratch, while keeping your day job, and Jamie Oliver offers a variety of free recipes on his site, plus tips on what’s in season. You can even subscribe to his RSS feed so you don’t miss any of his newly added recipes.
As for cost, remember that whatever you think you’re saving now by using processed foods, you’ll end up paying many times over later on when your health begins to fail – and it likely will, if you’re on a fast food/processed food diet long enough.
Proper nutrition, consisting mainly of whole, fresh foods, really is your number one health insurance policy for the entire family, regardless of age.
Healthy Shopping Guidelines
It’s easy to become discouraged with the entire business of organics, and begin to fret about ever being able to get your hands on truly healthy food. But there is help available.
Here’s a list of tips and guidelines to teach you the tricks of healthy shopping, whether you’re shopping at Whole Foods or a regular grocery store:
Learn to identify:
High-quality food -- Whether you’re shopping at a supermarket or a farmer’s market, here are the signs of a high-quality, healthy food:
- It’s grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods)
- It’s not genetically modified
- It contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
- It does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
- It is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh local conventional produce, the latter is the better option)
- It did not come from a factory farm
- It is grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
- It is grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)
Organics – There are a few different organic labels out there, but only one relates directly to foods: the USDA Organic seal.
It’s the best way to ensure you’re getting what you pay for when shopping organic.
The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. In order to qualify as organic, a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity.
(For the complete National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the USDA organic label, see this link.)
Genetically modified foods – Avoiding genetically modified (GM) food is just as important for your health as seeking out high-quality organics. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, GM ingredients are everywhere, so whenever you use pre-made, pre-packaged, processed foods of any kind, GM becomes an issue.
By making sure to avoid all GM food products, you will actively help change not just your own health for the better, but the entire food industry.
Other health-harming ingredients – This is quite a bit trickier, since there are a vast number of additives, preservatives and food colorings that can wreak havoc with your health in the long term.
However, I would suggest starting with the most obvious culprits, including MSG, artificial sweeteners, and fructose. Here are helpful guidelines for each:
- MSG – A great resource on how to find hidden sources of MSG, please see the website www.MSGMYTH.com for detailed listings
- Fructose – Any time you see ‘corn syrup’ or any variation thereof, on the label, avoid it, especially if it’s at the top of the list of ingredients.
In his book, The Sugar Fix, Dr. Johnson reviews the effectiveness of reducing fructose intake to help prevent or treat obesity. His book also provides detailed tables showing the content of fructose in different foods, including whole foods, like fruits – an information base that isn’t readily available elsewhere.
ALL artificial sweeteners should be avoided, including:
It’s unfortunate, but even sources like Whole Foods can lead you astray if you don’t know what to look for, so please, educate yourself on what ‘healthy food’ really is. It’s the only way to ensure you won’t keep falling for harmful processed food fads like no- or low-fat (which usually means it’s loaded with harmful fructose or sugar instead), or no- or low sugar diet foods (which instead contain artificial sweeteners, which are even worse for you).
There are few, if any, shortcuts to real health and it all starts with what you feed your body, so make educated choices.