Beware of Toxic Pesticides in Strawberries at Whole Foods Markets!
Most people know that strawberries absorb large quantities of pesticides when raised “conventionally” (EWG’s Dirty Dozen List). So why is a huge display of conventional strawberriesmy first eye-popping experience at Whole Foods? When I ask for organic ones, the staff says they don’t know, or seem confused. What kind of training do they get?
Whole Foods Market stores are nationwide. People inherently trust Whole Foods because their marketing is almost spotless. Whole Foods emotionalizes the shopping experience with visions of abundant good-for-you-eats the moment you walk in the store. They greet you with an array of fresh flowers, fruit and veggies that immediately invokes a state of freshness, and the high quality standards are touted to easily make anyone believe they are shopping at the best place possible.
1. But Not Everything is Organic
Don’t let the fact that they are a certified organic grocery store fool you. Being CCOF certified means practically nothing in terms of how much organic produce they actually have to sell you. I’ve been to Whole Foods many times now, and I haven’t been able to find all of the organic produce I want – most of it is conventional and often flown in from other countries. For instance, I use cucumbers in one of my favorite smoothie recipes right now, and on the last three trips to Whole Foods, organic cucumbers were not available along with several other of my staples I buy on a weekly basis. Buying organic produce like strawberries and cucumbers is very important because they are included in the dirty dozen list – a list of fruits and vegetables that are recommended to purchased only organic because of the high level of pesticide concentrations found in them. Remember that increased exposure to pesticides are in some cases linked to birth defects, nerve damage, and cancer. The President’s Cancer Panel has urged us to avoid food sprayed with pesticides and doesn’t believe any amount is safe.
I sometimes go to Whole Foods for a quick meal, but it’s not very often, because the prepared foods and salad bar are mostly conventional, laden with GMO’s and pesticides. It’s very hard to find an organic meal available at any of their food stations – pizza, deli, sushi, soup, salad, sandwiches, smoothies, etc. Since I’m already at the store in the first place, I usually talk myself into buying the organic ingredients I need and preparing them at home rather than making a habit of eating there. On several occasions, I’ve found less than stellar ingredients hidden in their prepared foods – like GMOs, hidden MSG and the over use of cheap oils like corn, soy, and canola, which I will get to in a minute.
2. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are Everywhere
If there was one thing I thought I could avoid by shopping at Whole Foods, it would at least be GMOs, especially looking at their quality standards. When you ask the staff about GMOs, like I did just the other day, they will tell you all sorts of different answers on the topic. The inconsistencies in their communications to customers was just recently exposed in an “Organic Spies” tell-all-video, that used hidden cameras to ask Whole Foods employees about GMOs in their stores. This video uncovered that most employees said there were no GMOs at Whole Foods, however in actuality approximately 20 – 30% of their stores’ goods contain GMOs. When I specifically asked the team leader of my store in Charlotte if I could have a list of all the non-GMO products, he said “there are absolutely no GMOs in here, we don’t have a list.” He was so pompous about his answer, that I followed up his bold statements with a couple of questions that were not answered correctly. I did not want to argue with him, so instead, I took pictures of the Kashi, Pirate Booty, Barbara’s Bakery, etc. on their shelves – all brands I’ve researched that have GMOs.
Whole Foods sources non-GMO ingredients for their 365 store brand and supports GMO-labeling in California, where the issue appeared on the ballot as Proposition 37. However, Whole Foods hasn’t donated a single cent to the campaign – a large percentage (~$2-3 billion dollars) of their profits are directly tied to the sale of GMOs after all. Their support for non-GMO is superficial at best. A company that makes over $10 billion dollars in revenue should put their money where their mouth is, especially since big food corporations are outspending the effort to label GMOs 11 to 1. Whole Foods has stated they haven’t donated because they do not contribute to political campaigns. Our right to know is not political – it’s a basic fundamental human right to know what we are eating. Safeguarding our organic farm land starts with labeling and eliminating GMOs – this is something Whole Foods could have a major impact in protecting and should be committed to, especially wearing the label of a CCOF certified organic grocer.