What Is Trader Joe’s Hiding?

The answer to that question is easy – A LOT.

A family member does this little game with me and it happens over and over. After trying a bite of something that looks homemade, I say, “Mmm where did you get this from?” and she says, “Don’t worry, it’s from Trader Joe’s, so it’s organic.” The fact that people assume all products from Trader Joe’s are organic or healthy or better than what you would find elsewhere is an alarming misconception.

For the last several months, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Trader Joe’s. Many people are questioning the grocery store chain’s policies on genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs) and asking if I personally trust their statements about the use of GMOs in their store brand products – my short answer is no, I don’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE shopping at Trader Joe’s. It’s fun, the employees are super nice and helpful and it’s a pleasant experience. However, they won’t share any information with us and are completely cloaked in secrecy regarding their business practices, which makes my head want to explode.

Trader Joe’s Official GMO Statement:

Our approach to Genetically Modified Organisms is simple: we do not allow GMO ingredients in our private label products (anything with Trader Joe’s, Trader Jose’s, Trader Ming’s, etc. on the label).

 

Given what Trader Joe’s tells us about their GMO policy, we should trust them, right? Or are we trusting them just like many consumers trusted Naked Juice, Tostitos, Kashi, Gold Fish, Barbara’s Bakery, etc. who are or have been faced with lawsuits finding suspected GMOs in their so-called “natural” products?

During my research, I found out there is no regular independent third party certifier verifying their products are non-GMO on a regular basis at Trader Joe’s. It is completely up to Trader Joe’s product supply team to regulate GMOs from suppliers – not the Non-GMO Project or the USDA (for organics) that requires a high level of standards and third party testing before stating a product can be deemed free of GMOs. If there are complaints about a product, Trader Joe’s will conduct verification with a secret third party that they won’t disclose, but it’s completely up to the consumer to alert Trader Joe’s with a complaint.

In fact, Trader Joe’s stated that their products “don’t allow for auditing using the Non-GMO Project because there is an additional cost associated with that.” A representative from Trader Joe’s went on to say, “We tend to not label our products a whole lot, and won’t until there is a government regulation to understand what non-GMO even means, we aren’t going to label products that don’t have specific FDA guidelines.” So this begs the question – what does non-GMO mean to Trader Joe’s? Are they making up their own definition because they claim they don’t have direction from a governmental official?

I reached out to the Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project, Megan Westgate, to find why Trader Joe’s refuses to become Non-GMO certified. This is what she said:

“The Non-GMO Project has reached out to Trader Joe’s a number of times over the years, and we remain hopeful that at some point we will be able to forge a meaningful partnership with them. To date, it has been very difficult to ascertain the credibility of their non-GMO claims. We know that many consumers believe Trader Joe’s to be a GMO-free store, but without transparent standards or third-party verification this is impossible to confirm. Many other retailers–independent grocers, co-ops, and Whole Foods Market–are leading the way by requiring rigorous testing and labeling, and it would be great to see Trader Joe’s follow suit.”

TraderJoesProductsGMOs

Trader Joe’s says they review affidavits (the documents that prove an ingredient is not made or contaminated with GMOs) from their suppliers who make their store branded products, but there is no way to verify this. I asked Trader Joe’s if they would send me an affidavit showing proof of non-GMO corn or soy in at least one of their products that wasn’t labeled certified organic and they refused saying, “Unfortunately we don’t share those documents, they are confidential.” They wouldn’t even tell me what country some of the products were produced in either as they do not provide “country of origin” labeling.

I find the denial of my request maddening, considering I requested a similar affidavit from Honest Tea, who is owned by Coca Cola, and they completely complied and sent me the information with the confidential suppliers name blacked out. Heineken Beer also provided their affidavits when I asked them to prove to me they use no genetically modified ingredients in their beer.

Furthermore, when I reached out to the Director of the Cornucopia Institute (the top organic industry watchdog group), Mark Kastel, he stated:

“It is very hard to figure out sourcing with Trader Joe’s.  They heavily depend on private label products which are based on secrecy.  We have said that private-label organics is an “oxymoron.”  Organic consumers want to know “the story behind their food.”  They want to know where it was produced, how it was produced, how the animals and workers involved have been treated, etc.  None of that is possible with Trader Joe’s. Unlike the majority of all responsible brand marketers in organics they have refused to participate in our research studies and are thus rated very poorly on our scorecards that critique dairy foods, eggs and soy foods (etc.)”

 

We have the right to know where our food comes from and what’s in it and Trader Joe’s is refusing to give us this information.

They don’t want us to know which suppliers they are using because it would upset consumers and their suppliers if we knew the truth. For example, Stoneyfield supplies yogurt for Trader Joe’s and Stacey’s (owned by Pepsi) supplies their pita chips. Because Trader Joe’s maintains a limited supply of products, they can buy many of the same items in bulk from different suppliers keeping costs low, which is fabulous, but this comes at a cost of not actually knowing who is manufacturing our food. They keep it secret because the companies they work with, like Stacey’s, don’t want you to know that you can buy their pita chips two dollars less at Trader Joe’s under a private label. This is how Trader Joe’s has become so successful, growing at a faster pace than Whole Foods.

Trader Joes Same Company

There is another disappointing side effect of not knowing where your food comes from because if you are like me and boycott certain companies because of their business practices, it is extremely hard to vote with your dollars and know which products to buy and support. For this reason, if you want to REALLY vote with your dollars, you seriously need to consider what you are buying at Trader Joe’s. 

I have a hard time trusting a company that is not willing to show their affadavits to a customer or prove that their products are in fact GMO free. Trader’s Joe’s won’t spend any of their 8 billion dollars in sales to test and prove their products safe. And they won’t tell us what companies they work with to develop their products or what countries their ingredients come from. Have you noticed that every single Trader Joe’s branded product has “DIST & SOLD EXCLUSIVELY BY: TRADER JOE’S MONROVIA, CA 91016″ written on the back? I hope we are smart enough to know the entire line of Trader Joe’s products aren’t all really from California.

label

Since Trader Joe’s does provide a price point that is unrivaled, I can see the financial benefit to shopping there, but not much else. Their fruits and vegetables are usually flown in from half way across the world, packaged in lots of plastic, providing little to no local produce (at least in my store here in Charlotte, NC). This means you could be eating nutritionally degraded produce. I have been a victim to this more than once when I bought produce that I didn’t know was less than stellar and it went bad super fast in my fridge compared to the local produce I get from my farmer or buy from other grocery stores.

Considering Trader Joe’s total lack of transparency, there’s only a limited list of products I would personally trust from Trader Joe’s, here’s what I would buy and not buy:

WHAT TO BUY AT TRADER JOE’S

  • Certified organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
  • Certified organic branded Trader Joe’s products (USDA certified), for example their organic popcorn made with olive oil is a good choice
  • Certified organic milk products
  • Certified organic coffee and teas (like Yogi tea)
  • Certified organic frozen goods like frozen berries
  • Some conventional items on occasion (like kimchi) that do not have high-risk GMO crop ingredients like corn, soy, cottonseed, papaya, sugar, canola, zucchini/squash (here’s a full list of potential GMO ingredients)
  • Paper products – they use environmentally friendly practices and recycled paper

Slide1

WHAT NOT TO BUY AT TRADER JOE’S

  • Charles Shaw Wine, otherwise known as “2 buck chuck” – It’s so poor in quality, some experts call this stuff “grape-flavored soda” and compare it to what “Ronald McDonald is to the cheeseburger.” This wine is not made in a winery rather, “this wine is made in a factory, with a lot of synthetic and concentrated products, like grape musk, added to manipulate the flavors from bad grapes.” (Stick to organic wine with no detected or added sulfites)
  • Non-Trader Joe’s brands that likely contain GMO ingredients like Simply Lite, Reddi Egg, Dare, Orangina, The Laughing Cow, Morningstar, Toffutti, Think Thin Bars, Toblerone, Kashi, Barbara’s Bakery, Annie Chun’s and Power Crunch
  • Trader Joe’s branded products or other processed products that contain high-risk GMO crop ingredients like corn, soy, cottonseed, papaya, sugar, canola, zucchini/squash (A majority of their products contain one or more of these ingredients, until they can be fully transparent, I would not trust them.)
  • Pre-packaged meals like sandwiches, salads, and sushi – many of these items contain ingredients you definitely don’t want to be eating,  like cellulose (wood pulp), or imitation crab meat. Additionally, there’s way too much sodium added to these meals and they can give you a serious case of water-weight bloat and bubble gut.
  • Trader Joe’s branded dairy, yogurt, or eggs, because they are likely produced from animals fed GMO corn and soy and can contain antibiotics
  • Non Trader Joe’s branded dairy, yogurt, or eggs because they could contain (cancer causing) rBST growth hormone, GMOs and antibiotics
  • Non-organic meat or dairy, Trader Joe’s still allows antibiotics and other harmful chemicals – like autolyzed yeast extract (a hidden form of MSG) in their meat.

The most important thing to remember when shopping at Trader Joe’s or anywhere else for that matter, is to read the ingredient lists. Trader Joe’s still allows harmful petroleum- based artificial coloring, artificial flavors, carrageenan, and other questionable ingredients to creep into their stores via other brands and this is something to definitely watch out for.

licorice

If you know someone who shops at Trader Joe’s, please share this post with them. Making smart decisions together is the only way we are going to change the secretive practices of the food industry.

Keep Your Chin Up!

Food Babe

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to get more info about what’s really in our food, personal updates from me and chances to win cool organic stuff.

 

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773 Responses to “What Is Trader Joe’s Hiding?”

  1. Kathleen

    Do you really trust the USDA?

    Reply
  2. Amy

    You mention buying conventional products like kimchi that are not likely to contain gmos, but have you looked into white vinegar? I do not see it on your list of ingredients that likely contain gmos, but distiller vinegar is most often made from corn!

    Reply
    • Roxanne (to Amy)

      Kimchi doesn’t contain vinegar. It’s a naturally fermented pickle, relying on lacto-acid bacteria for the sour/tanginess and preservation.

      Reply
      • Amy (to Roxanne)

        Thanks! Still wondering about distilled vinegar…

  3. Jackie

    Wow you have a lot of time on your hands unless this is your profession. I read the entire article. Good research. I shop at traders once a week. Still think it’s a great grocery store.

    Reply
  4. G.S.

    Wow. I was just at the grocery store and they had samples. I was checking the ingredients… I knew it wasn’t going to have healthy ingredients but there are some KEY ingredients we absolutely avoid at all costs (even in the name of free samples haha)… The lady offering the samples ended up asking me questions and we were talking about the ingredients in the ice cream samples she had and she said, “It doesn’t have artificial sweeteners.”
    “Yes it does. Corn syrup (and a couple of ingredients) are technically artificial sweeteners.” – me
    She agreed and I can’t remember what she said but I said, “But it is loaded w all kinds of GMO ingredients and started to show her the GMO ingredients (most of which were corn based) and she said, “Oh no it isn’t GMO.”
    I was so taken back that she didn’t know that MOST of the igredients in MOST of the packaged food at the store is all GMO. Whatever your feelings are about GMOs, you should know this. Not because it is common sense, but because we need to have properly labeled food!

    We also got into talking about Iowa GMO crops and she immediately said, “Oh no, corn from Iowa isn’t GMO. It is Yellow (blah blah blah) dent corn.”

    I looked at her absolutely astonished… she understood enough to know that it is dent corn and not meant for human consuption but didn’t know that it is ALL GMO! I told her it absolutely is and she asked how I know. Well, because my family owns a TON of farm land. I have cousins that work for Monsanto. And even a governor (and some mayors) have all worked for Monsanto at some point or other.

    She even went on to talk about a documentary called King Corn… I just recently watched this so we were both delighted to talk about it… she didn’t realize that their acre crop was GMO! I’m so puzzled how she didn’t know that! They went into great detail explaining this.

    So again… this is why I advocate.

    Reply
    • San (to G.S.)

      Come one, she’s frontline staff at a grocery store. She’s not going to know that stuff.

      Reply
      • Neil Henry (to San)

        I don’t think I want to dismiss this as a part-timer/front-line employee who didn’t know better.
        The way the employee was familiar with some very detailed, very enlightened talking points— but concluded them with incorrect or mis-leading facts is actually quite troubling. Whether it is orchestrated or occurring informally, that front line employee was spewing enough key points to make them appear to be a trustworthy source – but delivering mis-leading/bad advice.

  5. Rafael

    Trader’s Joe started as a small business with their own product with simple, hippy packaging with unhip typefaces reminiscent of the 60′-70′ era. I always have been dazzled by their design since I shopped the first time in 1997. It looks so simple and “undesigned”.
    Sure their “hippy design” is going against the mainstream designs found in other stores. It makes their brand identity looks as trustworthy and honest…
    But the true could be somewhere else: they could use that image to fill their products with crap. They have no problem to sell water from the Fiji islands all the way up to California. Don’t we have enough water here in California?!?
    What worries me about Trader Joe’s, is the german owner: Aldi. Their practices in Europe are known to be questionable: from underpaid employees who can’t join unions, to cheap products standards that rimes more with wall-mart than some “plan B whole food”.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer to shop at Trader’s Joe rather than Ralph’s or Wall-mart, but I feel that some of their products have been presented as healthy when they’re not. I sure believe they are working hard at keeping their friendly image and branding packaging that look so “down to earth”.

    Reply
  6. Alyxzandra

    They are owned by Aldi. That is all I have to say.

    Reply
    • Youre Stupid (to Alyxzandra)

      You’re stupid! The owners of aldi and trader joes are brothers. Both respectively own their own chains. Before you start typing, do your research.

      Reply
      • Alyxzandra (to Youre Stupid)

        hey, thats not a very nice thing to say to someone you don’t know anon. i was misinformed. brothers being raised by the same mothers probably have the morals? no? alright, i won’t be so quick to judge next time. can you say the same jerk face?

  7. Linda

    I only buy items that are organic and found some products that were Non GMO Project approved on the shelf. I brought it to the attention of an employee and told her that is what I want more of. I will give her credit she took the product up to management and explained to them what I wanted more of (the Non GMO project ) labeled products. I made sure to tell the employee I was spending fewer of my food dollars there.

    Reply
  8. Kimberley

    This is so disappointing. I get all of my produce there but it has made me wonder why if is so much cheaper. I really don’t buy many other things that are processed from there though so I won’t have to give that up.

    Reply
  9. Gabby Covay

    Ugh, I used to shop at Trader Joe’s all the time back during my college years. I can’t believe I was deceived by their clever marketing.

    Reply
  10. Hanne

    If you’re lucky to have a good farmers market in an area that cares about this kinda stuff – shop there! I have a great relationship with several local farmers and know exactly how they run their farms. Much better tasting stuff than anything at a grocery store.

    Or, you know, grow your own.

    Reply
  11. Sara

    You forgot to point out that the Almond Milk uses synthetic Vitamin D and E:(

    Reply
    • Diane (to Sara)

      Sara, Look up recipes online for making your own Almond Milk. It’s really quite simple. You’d be surprised! :)

      Reply
  12. Cynthia

    We used to shop at trader Joes a lot. But the majority of their products contain soy. Which is GMO. They also use a lot of fillers such as corn syrup and other chemicals. This was not the case a few years back. My son is allergic to many of these gmo additives therefor we don’t shop at TJ’s as often as we used to. Unfortunately their product quality is demising with cheap fillers.

    Reply
    • michele (to Cynthia)

      I agree. I used to shop there a lot and loved their stuff. now most of my favorites are gone and everything else is too sugary tasting.

      Reply
  13. Ginger

    Unless you have your own garden and factory to produce all the items sold in any store such as Trader Joe’s you are going to have to use your brain and read a label and make a conscious choice of whether or not to buy something. Trader Joe’s makes no claim that every item they sell is healthy, people merely ASSUME it is because either someone told them or they see some healthy looking options compared to other store brands. Too many people are trying to talk negatively about companies because it bothers them that they are making a living (and a good one) If it bothers you so much that Trader Joe’s doesn’t disclose enough product information, go make it yourself! No one is entitled to have a product made FOR THEM exactly the way they want it. Stop complaining and make your own food if it bothers you so much!

    Reply
    • zach (to Ginger)

      When I walk into trader joe’s there is a giant chalkboard with this written on it:

      “all trader joe’s products are made without GMOs”

      the issue is being lied to/deceived/nondisclosure/overall shady business practices (which is nothing new, of course, but it doesn’t make what they do any less deceitful or wrong)

      Reply
      • Solo (to zach)

        Trader Joe’s only claim that their own labels (Trader Joe, Trader Jose etc.) are GMO free. Whether or not you can trust that is a different story.

  14. Neil Henry

    Food babe is great to draw our attention to the complexity of our grocery supply line. I see that Trader Joes is more transparent than most – but it all requires vigilance. Trader Joes is in a difficult position of being asked to stand behind products that are manufactured by thousands of sources operating under a loose, voluntary non-GMO assurance system. Where I am a little critical of food babe is for the self-congratulatory “discovery” that our processed food regulatory framework is almost entirely based on company’s self-administered regulations for safety and testing. This type of company-administered quality oversight is how every bakery, brewery, prepared food manufacturer in the US operates.

    Reply
  15. Betrayed

    I have been faithful to Trader Joe’s for 8 yrs thinking I was doing the right thing without going bankrupt. Then recently I stumbled upon Mercy For Animals undercover footage from factory farms displaying the vicious, sadistic, senseless brutality that goes on on these farms, and Idaho’s recent passage of the Ag Gag law which now makes it illegal to go undercover to videotape this animal torture. Other states tried to pass such a law but failed. Here is Otter’s (governor of Idaho) ridiculous reasoning “My signature today reflects my confidence in their desire to responsibly act in the best interest of the animals on which that livelihood depends,” …. “No animals rights organization cares more or has more at stake than Idaho farmers and ranchers do in ensuring that their animals are healthy, well-treated and productive.” Talk about being out of touch with reality. Well that made me dig deeper, I checked out the Cornucopia institute, etc and I was very disappointed to learn about TJ’s lack of transparency. Betrayed is the only word I can think of to describe what I feel. I don’t know where to shop anymore. Whole foods is expensive. I have tried growing my own for years but something always seems to go wrong, disease, bugs, squirrels, too much rain… I would love to have my own chickens but here you have to have 2 acres to have 1 chicken. Maybe I should just go back to buying from the bad guys, at least they are honest and transparent, and my money won’t be going to Germany. Very disappointed with TJ’s, government and the food industry in general.

    Reply
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  19. Sarah

    Any product that has no country of origin listed on the label is a USA product. I personally trust the non-GMO claim because TJ’s conducts undercover investigations and inspections of their vendors, not third party as mentioned in the article. Certain products have been pulled from the shelves simply based on suspicion of GMOs (one product line is no longer available under their private label because of this breech in the Trader Joe’s standards).

    Reply
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  22. MJD

    With all due respect, wine snobs love to talk down $2 Buck Chuck. The comentator in the referred article derides using things like “grape musk added to manipulate the flavors of bad grapes”. The incorrect term “grape musk” is actually “grape must”, aka pomace. The process of passing grapes that are not grand cru grade through must, (skins and stems) from previously-pressed select grapes is a time-worn, legitimate process of winemaking and is perfectly respectable and the grapes used are not “bad”. Ripasso means double pass, and the word appears on the labels of many wonderful Valpolicella wines which have come to be known as the “poor man’s Amarone”. The Charles Shaw brand comes out of the Bronco Winery. It’s not Chateau Margaux, but it’s perfectly serviceable wine.

    Reply
  23. Courtney Jones

    I used to work for Trader Joes’ for a year and love the work environment. As a consumer on the other hand it’s not all its crack up to be. Many times customers would ask if a product contained a certain ingredient. I have no idea. I would flip the box over and read the ingredients along with them, kind of like story time. We were just employees doing a job and hoping for the best in the products. I was sadden to hear of the brand Morning Star which is made by the Kellogs company. I am allergic to GMO’s which was disguised as a Gluentin intolerant until I went to whole foods bought non GMO certified pasta and was fine! I love me some pasta. Hence the sudden spike in gluten allergies. Duh, its GMO’s does’t take tons of test to prove this to me. I am glad you wrote this. I waant the subconscious image of this place to be looked at. We have to be aware of all our food.

    Reply
  24. cheryl

    It’s grape MUST, not MUSK.

    Reply
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  26. carmen

    hi vani…i am new to your website, SOO glad i stumbled upon it. i am very passionate too about spreading the word about the foods they are eating!! so many people have NO idea what is in the food they eat. so thank you very much for all the hard work you do!!! question…i have cut out sugar, but i like chocolate and baking, i was using the simply light chocolate bar from trader joe’s thought it was one of the best ones out there. but i am now trying to keep gmo’s out of my diet. where do you find a gmo free, sugar free, dairy free chocolate bar??? do you know??

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  27. Jenya

    What about Puffins with a ”non GMO” stamp on the package?

    Reply
  28. Alana

    So now what? I have to buy everything at Whole Foods? I already buy all my produce, bulk goods and spices at Sprouts, but we buy a number of items from Trader Joe’s such as greek yogurt, almond milk, multigrain bread, cereal, etc. I feel like no matter what I do I’m never going to have a 100% clean diet! This has turned into an obsession and it’s driving me crazy.

    Reply
    • Crohnie (to Alana)

      EXACTLY! Its become an obsession for me as well. Sad we have to “investigate” whats in our food when we are all begging to have it labeled. If GMOs are the wonder product that Monsanto claims it to be why wouldn’t you want to stamp your damn name in every single product you make?!?! Emmm hmmm! Thats what I thought!

      Having Crohns I watch everything I eat. No GMOS, no Crohns pain! Its like freakin magic! I was sick as a dog on GMOs barely able to live, work, enjoy my life. I felt 80 years old. Now I’m back to my early 30′s and healthy again in the absence of GMOs.

      Reply
      • Alana (to Crohnie)

        Wow that’s a miracle! I’m so happy to hear you nailed down what was making you feel crappy. I’m 22 and suffer from chronic migraines and sinusitis so I’m still trying to figure out if food is the culprit! I lead a very healthy lifestyle so it seems like a mystery to me :/

      • wildRainbows (to Crohnie)

        My friend in Hawaii, has Crohns as well. She is Asian and has made point to say that there are more Asians with Crohns today than ever. Historically, it wasn’t found in Asians. The point being that many foods around the world now have so much preservatives and in our country, GM foods that it’s affecting us in many different ways. And, yes, after she changed her diet to only organic -non GMO it has helped tremendously. Especially staying away from corn and soy, America’s favorite crop!

  29. alex

    Trader joes peanut butter bars have carmel color which is a common coloring found in most foods and drinks.also carmel color contains a dangerous carinogen chemical called 4 Methylimidazole or 4 mel for short.And any food or drink sold in the state that exposes the consumer to more than 29 micrograms of 4 methylimidazole (4Mel) per day is supposed to carry a health warning.who knows how much 4 methylimidazole (4Mel) does each Trader Joe peanut butter bar have.

    Reply
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  32. wildRainbows

    I’ve been strict about eating “organic” for at least 14 years. Which has made my taste buds really awake and can usually tell what is organic or not, by biting into it. Kind of like having super sensitive taste buds while pregnant, but all the time!
    So, almost every thing I have tasted at Trader Joes has not passed in my book. I’m not at all impressed with their foods, or design. And, their lines are always a mile long, so, so it is.

    Anyway, I do have a question regarding this article because it seems GMO is the main concern here. But what about organic? I’d like to know if food babe regards all GMO as non organic. Can organic still be GMO? Because these are two different categories, no?
    The thing I have learned from the farmers association is that USDA “organic” standards, means the USDA approves up to 72 or 92 specific pesticides (can’t remember which) the farmer is allowed to use. So, organic really isn’t organic by USDA standards. USDA standards is actually pretty low. Which means, if TJ’s can’t get a third party to qualify it as organic or non GM, then you bet TJ’s has pretty low standards. It’s probably just a step up from the standard super market-what they call foods.
    But GMO seems to have spread like wild fire in the last decade in the U.S. so how does this affect organic foods? Can you still buy something that is organic and assume it has no GMO?

    Reply
  33. Gary E. Green

    Trader Joe’s products also contain hidden or naturally occuring sources of MSG aka “rat poison”.

    Reply
  34. Bryn (to )

    On a related note I hadn’t considered the presence of corn syrup in a large number of beers until I saw a post about it several weeks ago. The whole list tastes pretty much like dishwater to me and I live in Oregon so I didn’t care much, but then I thought about my favorite cheap beer: Simpler Times Lager from TJ’s.

    I thought “Great, that’s a TJ’s product so I can drink it with no worries.” Then I looked at the label. It’s not a house brand. So I called the brewery and said I wanted to ask about the ingredients in the beer they make for TJ’s. I was told I would have to talk to the brewmaster and she could put me in his voicemail since he was gone for the day. I had been reading about the brewery while finding the number, so I knew they were in the top 10 beer suppliers in the USA. I left a message but figured that would be the end of it.

    Imagine my surprise when I get a call from a number I don’t know the next day and it’s the Minhas brewmaster! We talked for well over 1/2 hour and he was very friendly, smart and funny. He told me right away that he uses some corn sugar in that brew and it might very well be derived from GMO corn. He explained that the color, strength, and flavor of the brew would not be possible with malted barley/syrup alone for the fermentation. He then told me that GMOs have been a concern of his for some time and he only uses a corn sugar that is so completely refined that it contains only sugar molecules. He explained to me that it tests out to exactly 0 molecules of DNA because that’s what he requires from his supplier. Yep, I trust him at his word. I haven’t looked up the science to see if that level of refinement is considered possible, but I’m confident I will find it is. I sure hope so, because nothing compares to that beer for price/taste bang for the buck.

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  35. natasha (to )

    Thank you! My thoughts exactly. Why try to damage a company thats core values are in line with this non-gmo movement? Be informed and read labels. That’s it. Personally, I love Trader Joes and am so happy I gave them a chance, they are helping me not go to the poor house and feed my family in a way that I feel is better for them and the environment.

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  36. Bev (to )

    Totally agree. We should be encouraging companies to be more like Trader Joe’s. Food Babe consistently shows a lack of understanding as to how business works. Tearing down good companies like TJ’s is not going to help anything. I’m seriously considering avoiding Food Babe’s posts in the future, because it seems to me that her focus on “investigations” is really just a way to slander certain companies. I think a positive, pro-active approach would be much more beneficial. The bottom line is that a well-informed consumer is vital. WE are responsible to read labels and make decisions. I think as with any other information, you have to read Food Babe with a critical eye and do your own research.

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  37. Kathy F. (to )

    So David…You seem to believe that you know how business works. Mmmmm… and you really believe you can trust them so completely? You really believe everyone of their employees that affect their products GMO content is completely trustworthy? Statistics regarding human behavior make that very doubtful. The fact that you feel that the risk of TJ’s testing for GMO’s would lead to massive loss of sales which would be so much worse than continuing to withhold information regarding the contents of the food we consume to nourish and maintain our bodies optimum level of health. Ahh yes…putting the old corporate profit value priority above the health and well being of the of the people. You ask on what untrustworthy info she bases her concerns, did you read the article with an open mind? You sound more like a knee jerk, defensive, reactionist vs. an educated, critical thinker. We are all at different knowledge levels the author’s goal is to inform & educate. I believe she is doing an outstanding job. Finally most of us learned in elementary school that “one who assumes often makes an ass out of you and me.” Me thinks YOU may be the naive one.

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  38. Doug B (to )

    Bryn must work for Trader Joe’s. Also, you come across as a huge rude know-it-all which completely deflates the desire for anyone to listen to your arguments. You sound like maybe you took a class or two in law school – but I for one would prefer if you took a class at charm school. If you want to make points of consideration regarding her research or where it may be lacking, that’s fine. But taking the approach that Food Babe knows nothing about her craft is truly ridiculous. She reaches out to try and find out information so people can make the best decisions for their health and well being, and I for one appreciate that. I’m not saying she’s always right or doesn’t cover some areas of the issues, but your approach isn’t one that would make me consider your point of view.

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  39. Bryn (to Kathy F.)

    Who is David?

    Why did she “overlook” the single public clear published policy and procedure document of TJ’s GMO screening practices? Between Food Chick and TJ’s there’s only one entity showing a clear intent to deceive and mislead. Or, alternatively, be completely incompetent at “investigating”. Take your pick.

    “Trader’s Joe’s won’t spend any of their 8 billion dollars in sales to test and prove their products safe.”

    That’s directly saying TJ’s GMO statement is a lie. She better have something to back that up. I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure TJ’s has a slam-dunk slander case should they choose to pursue it. FB is the one assuming TJ’s is lying. Where’s her foundation for such an assumption? She just thinks it would be too much trouble to do what they say they do so they must be lazy like her and not bother? I’m sure the judge will love that argument.

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  40. Bryn (to Doug B)

    I’ve never been to law school. I studied acupuncture at a young age (17-20) in a small Japanese school but realized later that sick people annoyed the hell out of me so it was a poor career choice for me. Currently my mother and I have a small (no other employees) business that make the best pastel painting surface in the world. My mom’s the artist who invented it.

    I do not now, nor have I ever worked for TJ’s. In fact I have never had a friend who worked there, although I did know someone about 23 years ago who went to grade school with the children of the family who started it. She said they were very nice.

    Perhaps FB had, at one point, the zeal, attention to detail, and good intentions that many of her posters seem to ascribe to her. If so she has clearly turned the corner, at least as far as this post goes. To say that this can be held up as any example of someone “reach(ing) out to try and find out information so people can make the best decisions for their health and well being.” is what is ridiculous. This is the first article of hers I have read and it will be my last.

    I will refer you again to her omission of the freely available, clear, published statement of TJ’s GMO policies and procedures.

    http://www.traderjoes.com/about/customer-updates-responses.asp?i=4

    Is it your opinion that she left this out accidentally or on purpose? Which choice makes her more trustworthy or competent? Oh, right. Neither.

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  41. Doug B. (to Bryn)

    Again, that’s your opinion. Just because a company has a policy doesn’t mean they follow through on their claims, and I don’t think that TJ’s posting a policy on a website negates the reality that we don’t always know what’s in food products. Losing you as reader and a commenter will not affect this site in the slightest. We won’t miss you. See ya!

    Reply
  42. stasi (to Bryn)

    She didn’t leave any of that statement out. She quotes it at several points in the article.

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  43. halcyon (to Bryn)

    I clicked on the link and turns out there’s a lot more to their statement than was provided in this article…

    “When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product perform the necessary research to provide documentation that the suspect ingredients are from non-GMO sources. This documentation is in the form of affidavits, identity-preserved certification of seed stock, and third-party lab results from testing of the ingredients in question.

    In addition to this work done in developing a given item, we conduct random audits of items with potentially suspect ingredients, using an outside, third-party lab to perform the testing.

    Given our position on GMO ingredients in Trader Joe’s label products and the work done in support of that position, it is our expectation that our products test as non-GMO.

    We have yet to take the approach of labeling products as non-GMO because there are no clear guidelines from the US governmental agencies covering food and beverage labeling. Instead of waiting for such guidelines to be put into effect and based upon customer feedback, we took a more holistic approach and made the no GMO ingredients position part of what the Trader Joe’s label encompasses.”

    Reply
  44. Bryn (to Doug B.)

    Absolutely true. You can lead a horse to logic, common sense, critical thinking and business sense, but you can’t make them think. ;)

    Reply
  45. Marilee Reyes (to MacKenzie)

    Excellent reply. I am ant- GMO, anti-Monsanto, Con Agra and all the other mega corporations who don’t give a fig how they poison the public. I happen to know that Trader Joe’s makes every effort to be above board and honest about their products and has dropped any number of suppliers who have not lived up to their contract or stipulations.

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  46. john (to )

    Brien, I don’ get into forum fights, I say just this, if you believe calling other people names will score you any points you are sadly mistaken…your whole point you are trying to make has become totally irrelevant.

    Reply
  47. Bryn (to )

    Johanne, judging by the number and tone of responses on this forum, your opinion is in the minority. Perhaps you’d have more time to enjoy life and be less bitter and suspicious if you spent less energy on trying to tell people and organizations what to do.

    Or if you are going to spend that time and energy, target someone who’s not on the positive cutting edge. What about raising awareness about Walmart’s 100% GMO sweet corn among the masses this summer? Safeway? Albertson’s? Why go after the one store chain who is delivering the combination of quality AND price? And they are taking great care of their employees, appear to be ethically responsible, etc.

    Why on earth are you attacking the one Reed Richards in the room full of Dr Dooms?

    Reply
  48. Claire F (to Bryn)

    Thanks Bryn for taking the time to research this and share your results. I might suggest Simpler Times to my husband.

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  49. Rachel (to Bev)

    Thank you! This will not deter me from shopping at TJs one bit. I think there is definitely a larger underlying issue here.

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  50. Bill (to Bev)

    Dear Bev…. You state that a well-informed consumer is vital and responsible to read labels and make decisions. My question back to you is: how can a consumer make a decision if TJ’s (or any other company) doesn’t properly label their product?
    That is exactly the point that Food Babe is making with this post!

    Reply
  51. Sarah (to Bev)

    I agree. Food Babe can be too harsh when it comes to companies and brands that actually are taking steps in the right direction. It just isn’t realistic to expect 100% perfectionism and change RIGHT NOW. There just is no pleasing some people…

    Reply
  52. Zurls (to Bev)

    It has been shown earlier in these comments that trolls, apparently in the employ of Trader Joes, have been posting anti-Food Babe posts, GLOWING praise for TJs and all it stands for, and concealing their illicit origins by using fake names – always the first names of ladies. Funny, isn’t it “Bryn”, “Bev”, and “Natasha”. If Trader Joes paid half of what they do to have creepy trolly like you hampering open discussions to instead be open and honest with their customer, we would not be having these discussions. You are lousy frauds and I can’t wait to hear your specious denials. Now that you have been revealed, please go away.

    Reply
  53. Zurls (to Bev)

    It has been shown earlier in these comments that trolls, apparently in the employ of Trader Joes, have been posting anti-Food Babe posts, GLOWING praise for TJs and all it stands for, and concealing their illicit origins by using fake names – always the first names of ladies. Funny, isn’t it “Bryn”, “Bev”, and “Natasha”. If Trader Joes paid half of what they do to have creepy trolls like you hampering open discussions, to instead be open and honest with their customers we would not be having these discussions. You are lousy frauds and I can’t wait to hear your specious denials. Now that you have been revealed, please go away.

    Reply
  54. Zurls (to Bev)

    It has been shown earlier in these comments that trolls, apparently in the employ of Trader Joe’s, have been posting anti-Food Babe posts, GLOWING praise for TJs and all it stands for, and concealing their illicit origins by using fake names – always the first names of ladies. Funny, isn’t it “Bryn”, “Bev”, and “Natasha”. If instead of Trader Joe’s paying to have creepy trolls like you hampering open discussions, if they spent half of that to be open and honest with their customers we would not be having these discussions. You are lousy frauds and I can’t wait to hear your specious denials. Now that you have been revealed, please go away.

    Reply
  55. zach (to Bev)

    what’s the issue? are you just too lazy to care? you made your effort and now you’re done? stop being like the masses and deceiving yourself into thinking everything is hunky-dorey, when no, this world and society are full of horriblenesses that could be otherwise

    TJ’s is saying one thing, but in actuality are behaving another
    yes, it’s about consumer awareness, and TJs are keeping their consumers unaware

    Reply
  56. Abraham Frohman (to Bryn)

    Absolutely adore your Reed Richards, Dr Doom analogy there. And agree with exactly what you are saying elsewise.

    Reply
  57. Rica (to natasha)

    Natasha, I’m with you. Out of all the stores, I love Trader Joe’s. You just have to read the labels.

    Reply
  58. Zurls (to natasha)

    It has been shown earlier in these comments that trolls, apparently in the employ of Trader Joes, have been posting anti-Food Babe posts, GLOWING praise for TJs and all it stands for, and concealing their illicit origins by using fake names – always the first names of ladies. Funny, isn’t it “Bryn”, “Bev”, and “Natasha”. If Trader Joes paid half of what they do to have creepy trolly like you hampering open discussions to instead be open and honest with their customer, we would not be having these discussions. You are lousy frauds and I can’t wait to hear your specious denials. Now that you have been revealed, please go away.

    Reply
  59. MARIA (to natasha)

    Sorry to say if you feed your family this shot from there you are feeding them POISION!!!

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  60. Rebecca (to natasha)

    Wow – where’d you get the idea that “their values are in line with this non-gmo movement?” They are now contracted with ConAgra, who spent over a million dollars to defeat the GMO-labeling act in California. I would say they are most definitely PRO-GMO. I used to shop at TJ’s years ago but no more.

    Reply
  61. geni (to Rachel)

    yes!

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  62. Robin (to halcyon)

    I haven’t seen any mention of it here, but Trader Joes has updated its statement about GMOs (on October 1, 2013, which appears to be after this post was made), to include the following statement:

    “We are also unable to confirm that animal products (meat, dairy and some farmed fish) sold under the Trader Joe’s label are raised on only non-GMO feed, due to the prevalence of GMOs in the commodity grain market, and the limited availability of verified non-GMO feed. For customers looking to avoid products from animals fed GMOs, we continue to carry organic meat and dairy products (organic standards prohibit the intentional use of GMOs) and wild-caught seafood. All organic products, regardless of brand, are by definition non-GMO.”

    So, when they said (and sadly their employees and managers continue to say) that all TJ-labeled foods are non-GMO, they really mean as long as it doesn’t contain meat, dairy, or fish! That’s a pretty big caveat, and I wish they’d at least update the information that their staff is giving out in the store.

    http://www.traderjoes.com/about/customer-updates-responses.asp?i=4

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  63. Crohnie (to Sarah)

    But why not 100% change right now?

    65 other countries flat out have bans in place on GMOs while us poor saps the American sheeple just follow along on every Miley Cyrus news story but can’t give a frick less about paying attention long enough to read about the garbage we are shoveling into our faces on a daily basis.

    Reply

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