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.”


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.


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:


  • 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



  • 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.


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

  1. jan

    I dont know why people are so taken with this store. They have alot of frozen food, no hand made breads, fruit that is sold for too much and its a very small store with too many people in it.

    • Margaret Anne @ Natural Chow (to jan)

      I had to laugh at that Jan, because I feel the exact same way. I went into Trader Joe’s once to see what all the hype was about, but I would never shop there.

      • James (to Margaret Anne @ Natural Chow)

        When has Trader joes ever said they were 100% organic ..you people are so stupid! Everywhere u go is the same.

    • Carmel (to jan)

      Cheap wine…..and free coffee if you shop in the AM.

    • DeeDee (to jan)

      Agree with you. I also hate all the stuff they have from Mexico. Hey, this is the USA; employ and support our local farmers and stop having imported foods that are available here and are better. NO to Trader Joes.

    • Ecfinn (to jan)

      You’re missing out on a lot.

    • John (to jan)

      How gross. Totally agree. People are fascinated because their un-informed neighbors told them what a great place this Trader Joe’s is and cheaper than Whole Foods. They don’t realize stores that sell so-called “healthy” items can dupe you just like upscale organic ones can. People trust way too much and don’t ask enough questions nor read labels. That’s why we are in this huge mess of people addicted to preservatives and chemicals in their foods. It turns people into zombies where all they care about is if something tastes good!! Sad commentary on this nation’s horrible addiction to chemicals in the food and in the environment, esp. toxic laundry scented products made with petroleum and other waste deemed hazardous by our own EPA. DUPED! and ZOMBIFIED! by toxic chemicals.

    • Bouncedancer (to jan)

      They have really good dark chocolate.

      • Jill (to Bouncedancer)

        Most of which is flavored with beet sugar that’s most likely from GMO, Monsatan sugar beets.

      • Jill (to Bouncedancer)

        Should’ve said sweetened, not flavored.

  2. Sonya

    This type of behavior and response from a self proclaimed Non GMO store is unacceptable. It’s against the law to mislead the public with misleading slogans. We should start a petition and protest against companies with this type of approach. Our slogan and petition should be “we have the right to know” “we ask you tell!”

    • Kelly (to Sonya)

      “The fact that people assume that all products from Trader Joe’s are organic or healthy or better than what you would find elsewhere is an alarming misconception”… that people perpetuate themselves.
      Trader Joe’s has never claimed to be a health food store, an all organic store, or a non-GMO store.
      Trader Joe’s claims that their private label, and their private label alone, is non-GMO.
      Should they be more transparent about their private label products? Probably.
      If you want full transparency on all ingredients in and sources of products, should you take up the issue with the FDA instead of a grocery store? Most definitely.

      • Nancy P. (to Kelly)

        Exactly, Kelly. I think Trader Joe’s creates an IMAGE of healthy foods. For this reason, we needd to be just as cautious as when in any other grocery store, and carefully read labels. I feel that a product must be 100% organic to provide as much assurance as possible that it will be free of GMOs. I say ‘as much…as possible’ because I do not have complete faith in labeling, and it depends upon the source company. THERE ARE NO STANDARDS FOR THER NATURAL on food. It is only a marketing scam. As consumers, we need to be promoting organic farming and humane raising and killing of animals, rather than insisting labels that say GMO, because most of the food already is GMO (unless organic).

      • Kevin Cody (to Kelly)

        I do not think there is much difference between the FDA or any government agency given the “revolving door” between federal regulator and their corrupt tendency to slide back and forth between industry and regulator.

        And in fact the shortcut to true change in a large corporation is direct consumer action/boycott/picketting aimed at them and not their bought and paid for federal bureaucrat/lawmaker.

        maybe that is my bias/

        best regards

    • Kelly (to Sonya)

      Sonya, I have no idea how my comment wound up as a reply to you (the other one, not this one). Sorry. It was suppose to be a regular comment, not a reply.

    • Ana (to Sonya)

      No, it is not against the law to have misleading labels. It should be, but it seems to be the American way to deceive, especially when it comes to food

  3. Ward Pallotta

    Sent to TJs: I have been a fan before the opening of the Avon Lake, OH (second Cleveland area) store. We celebrated when TJ and Costco opened stores in Sarasota. I am writing about the GMO issue. The company’s unwillingness to test and disclose sources of its private label products is now harming your brand. I don’t want to see that happen, but I also want to shop at your store with total confidence. Arguing about definitions and claiming secrecy puts you in the same camp as the fracking industry. Please, please get all the way on board.

  4. Joanna

    I believe that the Aldi food store chain owns Trader Joe’s. The founder died about a month ago I think. I knew nothing about either food store and found the story (NY Times) very interesting.

    • BARB (to Joanna)


      • Joanna (to BARB)

        I don’t shop at either one of these stores – Aldi or Trader Joe’s, but here is the history, which I found fascinating. Aldi’s founders, Karl Albrecht (who died at age 94 July 21 of this year) and his brother, Theo, who died in 2010, started the Aldi chain (meaning “Albrecht Discount”). I guess you can say Aldi is the original Costco or Sam’s Club, but on a much smaller scale. The chain sells no more than 2000 products. The brothers had a disagreement over whether to sell cigarettes so they split operations for Aldi into 2 geographical zones. Karl ran the U.S., Britain and Australia, with Theo running Europe. In 1979, Karl stepped into the American market and bought the Trader Joe’s (New York Times, July 21, 2014). We have plenty of good stuff here in NJ like Jersey tomatoes, the best in the world.

      • Jeff (to BARB)

        Actually Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi, but probably not the Aldi you’re thinking of. TJ’s was started by Joe Coulombe in the late 50s as Pronto, then changed to Trader Joe’s in the 70′s. In 1979, Theo Albrecht who also owned the huge German grocer Aldi with his brother, bought Trader Joe’s from Coulombe. Joe continued to run things until 1987 when they got another CEO, who expanded out of California. They did split the German Aldi into two distinct companies as Joanna says. It’s the “North” (Aldi Nord) that owns Trader Joe’s. The “South” (Aldi Süd) one owns the Aldi stores we have here in the US. So yes, Trader Joe’s is indeed owned by Aldi, and run out of CA.

  5. Fan B

    I’ve noticed that many TJ products contain canola, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and a bunch of other crap that they previously kept out of their foods. Although I’ve been going to TJs since they opened their first store and never set foot in the big supermarkets, I now find myself shaking my head in disbelief when I read their labels. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out that TJs had been secretly bought out by some big manufacturer. One of these days I will just stop shopping there! I’ve recently started shopping at a co-op and will probably do more and more of my shopping there instead of TJs. Its sad they gave into the pressure.

  6. Jasmin

    I love TJ and will continue to shop there! I buy their organic products like eggs, chicken, grassfed beef, milk, yogurt, salad, veggies, fruits, bread, coffee. I don’t think that TJ ever claimed to be a 100% organic store so why do you have to be slamming them like that. Really over 90% of their meat has antibiotics. That is not true! I don’t know who their stores are in other states but in NYC they sell organic chicken, grassfed ground beef. Beef without antibiotics, hormones, etc. Turkey without all that crap too. So why say over 90% I don’t see them any different than other supermarkets that sell some organic stuff. Their only claim is that their private label doesn’t contain GMO they never said ALL of their products are organic.

    • MaryBeth (to Jasmin)

      The fact that TJs is not being transparent makes us legitimately concerned. and the fact that they don’t reveal what farms their eggs come from means their chickens could be raised in deplorable conditions (debeaked, many birds in 1 cage, no outdoor time, etc). I am shocked that they can put that kind of a label on without stating the farms where the eggs come from. The egg rating cornucopia gives TJs the lowest rating because of their secrecy. This is very disappointing.

      • Jasmin (to MaryBeth)

        You are aware that TJ’s products are private label, right? All the private labels in the Cornucopia List were given a 1 rating including Whole Foods 365. There is very little that a private label can reveal which is why TJ is being attacked since 90% of their store is private label. If you don’t trust private labels then don’t buy them. I’m sure they have to go through the same regulations that known brands have to go through in order to stick the organic label on them.

  7. Kris

    I love trader joes and I hope they are gmo free… I asked an employee when I went if their meat was hormone free and he told me yes it’s all hormone free and he also told me unfortunately it’s not all cage free unless it says it says it’s cage free.

  8. Holly

    New to eating organically, I say to my friends, “Food suppliers are like Politicians, they all lie”. I’m finding brands I have trusted land up various Supreme Court cases across the nation for false claims on their product labeling.

    Your watchdog activities which are quite informative and certainly appreciated.


  9. Jaime

    Wow, I have recently seen this foodbabe site pop up in several places, and I’m starting to wonder if SO much is bad then what on earth are we suppose to eat? lol I don’t have time to grow my own vegetables. Honestly, I like Trader Joes. I usually stick with their organic products. I do the best to eat as healthy as I can, but I guess I am not religious about it. I’m honestly not even sure what I would eat if I was. According to this site, pretty much nothing is safe. *shrugs*

    • John (to Jaime)

      Well guess what? That’s about right! And that’s why Vani does what she is doing. Don’t give into frustration. Just educate yourself the best you can, and be done with it. ✌️

  10. truth

    trader joe’s private label all nonsense. look up the peanut butter pretzels. they are “TOS” at all joe’s. yanked off shelves. refusing to give out information to pb supplier multiple lawsuits. TJ’s all about secrets. workers and shoppers. they’ll never tell you where stuff comes from since they’ll use multiple different vendors ( whoever is cheaper ). gmo free everything? yeah ok.

    • Tyler (to truth)

      I can personally tell you the reason for the peanut butter pretzels and that was bc of a Quality issue that we ( being trader joes) found and removed and fixed, we don’t normal announce removed products unless deemed necessary. We do take great care and responsibly in all are trader joes products. We do stand by all products sold in are stores, but as said in the artical above the products with out are labs do have some things in them, we aren’t sneaking them in a lot of times when we have non trader joes labels come in is bc it’s the best option or another choice to chose from. I will state as both an employee and custermer of trader joes it is hard to get info at times on produts but if you ask any employee like my self with fruit we can if we have it can show you the box that it comes from. also none of any single fruit or vegetable that has no label on it comes from use with are name on it yes that incliuds are corn on the cob single not packeg the rule is does it have a trader joes label on it its from us if not then no we never said or stated that we are 100% organic we do sell organic yes but not everything also think for your self we don’t think for you read the ingredients on anything you buy not just from use you can ask any employee questions and we welcome ur questions all the time we strive for custermer satisfaction and we always welcome every one into are home. I am a current employee at store leavel for four years in California.

      • Kit (to Tyler)

        Holy cow! Did you even proof this comment, Tyler? Yikes!

  11. chunbunz

    the most shocking thing is their organic milk scored a 1 out of 5 from cornucopia. its not really organic.

    • Daisy (to chunbunz)

      “their organic milk” doesn’t really mean anything since they source many of their products- including fluid dairy products- regionally. There is not one “Trader Joe’s milk.” What I drink here in this part of Southern California isn’t the same as what someone in another state (or even an area in Northern California,) is drinking.

      To find out where your dairy is coming from, use the site: http://whereismymilkfrom.com/

  12. mrfuxable

    @foodbabe….this is deeper than you think.

    lookup your milk on this site (I live in LA):


    i just found out my trader joe “organic milk” comes from rockview. read this:


    we need to boycott trader joes.

  13. Rika

    I think its sadly hard ourdays to get any non GMO food anywhere except organic,and even then it can not be garantied. Even Non GMO countries like Germany cant garantie it. I like shopping at TJ.but I also go to the farmers Market,where I buy my eggs and strawberries,and other produce.

  14. Margaret

    Trader Joe’s are Chinese stores, aren’t they?

  15. todd jensen

    What is the automatic knee jerk negative reflex to GMOS? Please explain why they are so certain to be bad when all they are is a genetic variation on the normal product.

  16. Donna

    It doesn’t matter where you shop, you have to read the labels. I don’t blame the stores; I blame the consumer, and that includes me. It’s up to us to police ourselves. If we do not buy crap, perhaps the manufacturers will get the message. Every little bit of consumer wiseness helps.

  17. Sandie

    It took me a little while to see through Trader Joes. Although I still shop there, I am well aware that there is a TON of processed food on the shelves and in the freezers. I never buy the packaged stuff anymore …. it is crap and of course looks nothing like the picture on the box ;) As I am now on a restricted diet, I am finally paying attention to what goes on my plate and I an astonished at the way I have to be constantly on my guard …. it never lets up. I guess the secret is to fix my own food with organic meats, vegetables and fruits …. and to stay out of restaurants altogether. I am seeing a big difference in my health since I have begun to watch what I eat ….. headaches and painful joints are becoming a thing of the past.

  18. DanM

    I shop at a nearby TJ. I asked three different employees three separate times if their products were GMO free. Two said everything in the store was GMO free. The last person said only the TJs brands are GMO free. You can’t believe what someone tells you, you have to find it printed somewhere. Then again, who knows really if it’s true?

  19. Marvin

    I walked in at Trader Joes a few time sand honestly was NOT impressed with the things they sale their…especially the bread area. I do not see what the bid deal is about…except for the prices. I guess its the prices that draws people in there.

  20. Human

    The only way to be totally healthy and make this world a better compassionate place for all living beings is to stop consuming our animal friends (poisened by greed and cruelty) and eat an organic vegetable and fruit diet. Use your brain and resources to source the best and legit organic produce and you will love and live a beautiful life. Cheers!!

  21. Geoff

    You say
    “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.” ”

    Wiki says:
    “The Charles Shaw label is owned by the Bronco Wine Company, headed by Fred Franzia, formerly of Franzia Brothers wines. The Bronco Wine Company produces the Charles Shaw label at their Ceres, California winery,”

  22. BarBe

    I love Trader Joe’s. No matter what store you go to you have to do your product research. Trader Joe’s opens up a lot of organic options that large scale grocery stores do not offer. I have to go to 4 different stores to get a variety of organic foods (1 for meat, 1 or veg/fruit, 1 for beauty products and 1 for snack item) and it shouldn’t be that hard to shop smart. I believe they have a good concept and that is a great start. Stop being so harsh, go beat up on Wal-Mart for a while.

  23. StevenCee

    Another thing to beware of, are their ingredient labels, even on things as frozen foods, nuts, and seeds, etc. I’ve found glaring inconsistencies, such as cinnamon & sugar, or honey-glazed almonds showing far less fat & calories than raw almonds! Or frozen salmon marinated in various ingredients having less fat & calories than plain salmon!

    When I’ve pointed out these things to the store managers, they’ll act very concerned, even taking my phone number, promising to call me once they find out why the obvious inaccuracies. Not to single out Trader Joe’s, as I’ve found this kind of mislabeling in various health food stores, including Whole Foods….

  24. Michelle Hartford

    I’ve read that raw almonds were outlawed in the US. Trader Joe’s sells almonds labeled “raw”. When I questioned the manager he told me due to the fact TJ’s almonds are cooked less than others, they are “as raw as you can get”. I looked at him and said, “But they y are NOT in fact raw at all, are they?” To which he shrugged and said no, and mumbled something about it now being his job,,,,,

  25. Jennifer

    FoodBabe, I discovered you and your website this year and thank you for opening my eyes to what I was feeding my family. We’ve made a lot of changes in our eating habits over the course of the year and while it’s still a work in progress with the kids, my husband and I are now hyper-aware of the contents of the “food” we see in the grocery store. A few days ago, at TRADER JOE’S here in Charlotte, I turned over a bag of frozen talapia only to see CARAGEENAN listed as one of the ingredients! To be clear, that was ONE of the ingredients– frozen fish! One of the employees asked me if something was wrong and I said, “Yes. The only ingredient in frozen fish should be FISH.” She said she was sorry and and just walked away, not knowing how to answer me. Several other people in the aisle agreed and began talking about how they get their information from you and your website.
    Just thought I’d pass that along, say “thanks!” and offer a warning to watch out for added ingredients in TJ’s frozen fish.

  26. FirearmTutorials.com

    This makes sense. If I were selling organic food disclosure would be priority 1.

  27. 3rin

    Almost everything sold at Trader Joe’s that’s not organic is filled with artificial colors and flavors. If I wanted artificial colors, flavors and toxic preservatives I’d go shopping at the ‘regular’ grocery.

    Trader Joe’s is more a specialty food store. They sell a lot of niche products, and so-called ethnic foods. They only thing I ever found worth buying was their brand of organic box soup (tomato, squash), organic yogurt, and occasionally the organic apples. They jacked up the price on the soup so I stopped buying it.

    I definitely wouldn’t go there to buy staples. For that you’;re better off going to whole foods.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.


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

  35. 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!

  36. stasi (to Bryn)

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

  37. 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.”

  38. 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. ;)

  39. Jasmin (to Doug B.)

    “Just because a company has a policy doesn’t mean they follow through on their claims” So I guess according to your statement this applies to every food company out there. Not just TJ with it’s private label but all the known brands out there. So basically we shouldn’t trust any of them and just grow our own food and raise a couple of cows, pigs, and chickens because even a farmer can tell you one thing and do another.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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?

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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!

  46. 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…

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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

  51. Abraham Frohman (to Bryn)

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

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. MARIA (to natasha)

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

  55. 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.

  56. Ecfinn (to natasha)

    Exactly…TJ’s isn’t part of the problem. They’re obviously moving in the right direction while most food sellers don’t give a flying…..hoot.

  57. geni (to Rachel)


  58. 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.


  59. kelly (to halcyon)

    Than you for this halcyon!!

  60. Zurls (to halcyon)

    None of which means crap if they are not willing to show anyone this “proof”. Basically Trader Joe is saying “All our in-house foods are GMO-free but we won’t show you any proof; you just have to trust us!” They show organic certification with confidential info blacked out, they could do that for GMOs if they wanted to. The fact that they don’t is indicative that there is a reason. You don’t hide something unless there is something to hide.

    p.s. I see the TJ’s trolls are still here in force.

  61. 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.

  62. Gary E. Green (to Jozseph Schultz)

    Don’t know if your comment deserves a reply, but obviously you’ve never had a 3 day MSG induced headache.

  63. Noz (to Crohnie)

    You have no one to blame but yourselves….as a nation you’re all asleep at the wheel, couldn’t care less what you eat, who you bomb, who you hurt, how much trash you produce, and what effect you have on others. It’s that simple.

    When people in the US don’t even flinch at spending trillions on foreign wars, do you really think GMO’s are high on peoples’ lists?

    Immoral companies like Monsanto exist because we let them exist…because we let crooked officials in office let them exist….because we are too busy thinking we live in a democracy when we don’t.

    Those 65 other countries have citizens who are active in their countries policy making…who are care about what their government officials do…and take offense to the stupidity of government officials when they are not being properly represented….here…no.

  64. esteban (to Bryn)

    one picture confirms the claim (which was only supposed, but not made) the picture that shows canola oil as an ingredient. canola was the first transgenic GMO ever released. the fact that it is labeled on the ingredients shows that some GMOS can and will slip through the cracks. food babe is not rallying against trader joe’s, but calling for transparency and third party confirmation. there is nothing slanderous about her post, but there is something fraudulent about TJ’s claim that they try not to source GMOS, considering that canola is listed plainly on the label

  65. Bliss Doubt (to Rosemary McElroy)

    I appreciate this blogger’s attempt to make people understand that fresh, natural, local, organic and sustainable can often be nothing more than marketing jargon. There is no untruth here, only exposure. If you’re satisfied that the TJ image aligns with the reality behind the image, you’re welcome to shop there.

  66. Rosemary McElroy (to Bliss Doubt)

    I can understand how you enjoy the information provided within the article. But. It is not delivered without bias. The article mentions the hiding of the fact that larger, more mainstream companies provide food for Trader Joe’s under their in-house label. It is misconstrued as Trader Joe’s trying to deceive you which couldn’t be further from the truth. The companies providing the food want to make the increased dollar on their sales within the common stores and don’t want to be exposed. As an employee we were discouraged to expose the major companies brands even as they were clearly packaged upon receiving – in the instances that we did mention the major brand (against rules), people were thrilled. They were excited and not disgruntled at the fact that they were purchasing the same products without the higher ticketed amount.

    In short, I think the information she’s provided would best be delivered without assumptions and just of facts.

  67. Tiffany (to zach)

    Pull your heads out of the sand… TJ’s has GMO’s. Read the labels… if it says corn, sugar beets, soy etc and is not organic then it has GMO’s. I look at labels every time l want to buy produces there. The company line is ( that we are to tell to tell the public,) we don’t have GMO’s. When l wore my button in that said to label food, l was told to take it off because we have GMO’s. End of story.

  68. Ward Pallotta (to Sandy)

    Grow the food yourself or know your local farmer is best. We do both, but we also want to be able to depend on stores that are speaking the language of healthy food.

  69. MaryBeth (to Noz)


  70. Mike (to Noz)


    You B*tch and moan about US being this and that. Yet the language you are talking/typing in is English. NOT Swahili, German, Russian, or even French. Say thank you for that freedom and move on!


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