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.
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:
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
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.
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!
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.
1,123 responses to “What Is Trader Joe’s Hiding?”
I highly suspect now that there are hidden preservatives and/or/as well as GMO’s in Trader Joe’s Sprouted Wheat Sourdough Bread!!! I have discovered that it NEVER goes bad!!! NEVER grows mold!!! I HAVE HAD IT SIT ON MY SHELF FOR MONTHS ON END AND IT NEVER GOES BAD!!! THERE IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH THIS SCENARIO!!! PLEASE INVESTIGATE WHAT IT IS THAT THEY ARE DOING TO THIS BREAD???
ALSO, THIS ISN’T JUST HAPPENING IN TRADER JOE’S, BUT OUR ORGANIC, SEEDED FRUITS INCLUDING APPLES, PEARS, NON NAVEL ORANGES, ETC ARE ALL GOING SEEDLESS!!! SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY GOING WRONG ABD SOMEONE NEEDS TO INVESTIGATE THIS!!!
ONE SITE I FOUND AT ONE TIME A CUSED FARMERS OF NEGLIGENCE IN NOT MAKING SURE THAT THEIR TREES ARE POLLINATED!!! MAYBE THAT IS TRUE BUT I SUSPECT THAT GMO’S AND TOXIC CHEMICALS ARE ALSO ENCROACHING ON AND STERILIZING OUR CROPS!!!
PLEASE INVESTIGATE THIS!!!
CRISPR-Cas9 is what’s up with the super intelligent false labeled organics that have become void of seeds. Likely the bread that is completely void of legitimate organic certifications, or non-GMO verification, is loaded with preservatives & completely Genetically Modified garbage, the likes of which compares with a McDonald’s fake French fries or GMO Cheetos that hold their form indefinitely..
Trader Joes is the BEST market for healthy food. Just know that their TJ label does not have GMO. Even the market Green Organic is not completely organic. We need to be vigilant. I trust TJ to be forthright.
Its as if you did not even read the article….SMH.
Agreed! I don’t understand the hate, we have known for years to read the labels and pick the ones that contain FOOD. I don’t buy much that’s pre made anyhow and TJ’s has saved me thousands of dollars over the years! I’ll forever be grateful they helped me afford to feed my children quality, clean food while they were growing.
This inquiry was a follow-up to questioning Trader Joe’s “non-GMO” promises, their “organic” standards and more.. To this day, I’ve yet to receive correspondence on behalf of my letters and conversations with Trader Joe’s. However, I’ve spoken to some nasty far-left free speech limiting folks at their corporate headquarters out in CA, who became highly defensive upon questioning their modified ingredients.
Trader Joe’s Company
Attn: Hazel, Customer Relations Team
P.O. Box 5049
Monrovia, CA 91017
Dear Trader Joe’s:
In writing to you with sincerity and gratitude, I surely hope that as a whole, you may realize that these shared concerns evolve from a place of knowledge and genuinely compassionate heartfelt concern towards your company as well as your audience as a whole.
As an enthusiastic and hopeful shopper of Trader Joe’s, these concerns encompass collective considerations of myself and others’ who have shared their views in hopes of an improved experience that starts within your stores and evolves through the vitality of those who consume the foods you provide.
Some of the areas of concern include the following:
Produce availability, Most often, the selection of ‘organic’ vegetables and fruits are limited and often unavailable upon every visit to your Manchester, CT location. In addition, there is never organic celery, organic blueberries, strawberries or much any berries for that matter. As for the produce that is organic, all of the vegetables are ‘bagged’ with no means of ventilation, this method of bagging the “organic” or otherwise produce, is not sharing the process of which treats the produce, in order to seal the bags, the bags are treated in order to preserve the produce and this is an issue both for the process as well as the outcome as all of your sealed produce bags are loaded with humidity and hold lots of inescapable moisture which created mold in various forms. This mycotoxin, aflatoxin, phytotoxin presence on decaying produce, which still likes to breathe and the small plastic particles and or polycarbonate (BPA), PVC (Phthalates) or the release of monomer into the saturated produce. ESBO reaction with hydrogen chloride produced from the breakdown of PVC may combine to produce chlorohydrins. The overall consensus is an astounding demand for more organic produce. Most of what I’ve experienced personally (aside from organic Arugula),, has been musty and distasteful (within the humidity drenched produce). (Brussels sprouts for example)..
The organic fruits are often found to have soft mushy areas on them, the oranges from Sunkist as well as the pink grapefruit from Sunrise Farms. The green apples are often partially rotted and the avocado selection is nearly always all ripened and bruised to the point that you must truly choose wisely in order to sort through the mush pile. (within numerous visits), often out of grapefruit as well. The staff is always jotting inventory and on the ball, though the last two trips to the store, multiple additional customers had brought up these very same points about the same unavailable items while I was speaking to the staff (always the same answer stating how the shipments are limited due to store cutbacks in supplies via Corporate regulation)!
Another area of concern was that on the last three trips to the store the Organic ground turkey was in stock, though empty on the shelf on two occasions (was provided when brought to staff attention), though upon the last trip to the store – the entire section was filled with the traditional ground turkey (even in the organic section), upon asking staff, which had assumed there wasn’t any, (but made the effort to check), upon checking, the really helpful gentleman brought out a case and opened it to hand me some, I was buying 3 packages. In doing so, the man was going to put out the remaining packages on the shelf when a fellow co-worker stopped in passing, in order to instruct the man to just put the rest in the back room and not put it out on the shelf! He shared with her that the product wasn’t out on the shelves all day, yet she insisted to put it in the back room “because it would take too much time!” We both disagreed with her opinion and I am unsure as to what came of it, but struck me as odd. I had expressed my past two trip experiences regarding the shelf absence to his understanding.
With the vast selection of nuts & seeds (quite impressive), though the request remains to be more organic selection, as that is often the talk of the potential customers within the section as we scour to secure as many clean varieties as we can, Almonds, Pecans, Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts etc…
Some important questions regarding specifics within truly, healthful qualities:
I am curious to know about the sourcing of the Organic chicken, as the label specifies 100% vegetarian diet of corn & soybean meal. I was curious to know as to if Organic chicken is fed GMO crop sources, as it does not specify this attribute. One very clean facility that offers excellent pricing on organic, non-GMO & American Humane Certified chicken that is available inexpensively for private label is Springer Mountain Farms out of Baldwin, GA 1-877-826-2322 is a fantastic option if ever this is helpful. http://www.SpringerMountainFarms.com Actually of the most delicious options I’ve experienced.
I noticed that you have a wide variety of chocolate bars, most are heated to the point of which destroys the antioxidant properties and polyphenols, all but one had lots of added sugar. I did however notice the outside brand which primarily contained 45% or 55% cacao that had the sugar alcohol Maltitol added to it, there are many sugar alcohols such as maltitiol, xylitol, mannitol and erythritol.. Erythritol happens to create the least gastrointestinal upset and does not spike glucose levels (making it acceptable for diabetics (or) those seeking to avoid sugar such as those practicing Ketogenic or Paleolithic lifestyles.. For instance the company Lily’s Chocolates produces perhaps the most sought after healthful, tasteful chocolate bar in about a dozen varieties and ranges in percentages from 40%-85% high enough to reap the truest health benefits, by use of erythritol & stevia, targeting all those seeking to reap the health benefits of chocolate as most of the stores treats are truly terribly unhealthy (even the “gluten-free” “organic” products) that are loaded with rancid, highly refined, cheap hexane solvent based high-temperature extraction, de-gumming, neutralization and bleaching processes, all of which are health robbing and mycotoxin forming within sunflower, canola, safflower & even olive oil within your organic potato chips.. (un-refined, expeller pressed avocado oil or coconut oil are best high temperature oils for potato chips.
The gluten-free products have these oils in them, making them a terrible choice, especially with the addition of ‘Maltodextrin’ – which spikes one’s glycemic index, it tops the charts for glycemic index, yet added to your “gluten-free” products. In addition, Maltodextrin spikes blood sugar levels changed gut bacteria, and increases e-coli.
A huge part of what all the Watchdog guardians monitor within the realms of truly clean food production and farming practices encompasses on how sloppy the FDA & USDA have become within certifying Organic, the use of back pocket Quality Assurance International, all three have the worst reputation within the most rigorous health community with no product labels specifying Trader Joe’s non-GMO products promise. There has been no observation of a single non-GMO verified product within Trader Joe’s and yet it is alleged by word of mouth that all of your products are non-GMO sourced, yet by who?
Upon convincing several individual’s to shop within Trader Joe’s, their responses compared the store to Aldi’s, with a much better selection, yet they stated they were not impressed and had little interest in returning to Trader Joe’s.. Now this all may seem like an unappreciative rant, but in fact, it’s on the contrary. You see, I find value within this store, though I’ve yet to list the many products that I do love and enjoy, there are many, I assure you.
The point of this conveyance was out of concern, you see in studying functional nutrition for decades, I really had lots of hope for this store about 8 years ago, then 4 years ago when I stopped shopping at Trader Joe’s & stuck with Whole Foods for the past 4 years straight and I buy and prepare all my meals, buying lots of the healthiest foods (Loads of organic produce), when I’m unable to grow my own organic garden plot in the New England seasons..
I and others I’ve witnessed, within the store, would love very much to see these changes, other than a tiny personal mini market (extremely rare) in this area, there are 2 choices, there is the Whole Foods Market which has greatly continued to push out organic and add conventionally, who’s the owner is removing free speech from public access in globalist fashion & there is Trader Joe’s, which in my opinion and the likes of many others, has the potential to do even greater things, (even if they must up-charge), in order to revise their true quality within all their products of healthy intention! Perhaps a little overhaul with the assistance of a cutting edge nutritionist for the Organic products & possibly open or netted or ventilated Organic produce packaging options or breathable containers at least?
It would be nice to share with you all the many items we do prefer within Trader Joe’s, though I know this letter is a long and windy, hopefully, taken as loving support, rather than unappreciative criticisms.
Lawrence Johansen IV
Is any of their meat sourced from China? I have purchased their organic chicken breasts and they taste weird and rubbery. When there is no information on the meats one has to be suspect.
I completely agree! All Trader Joe’s chicken tastes like rubbery, and distinctively foreign in taste. Zero information or requested transparency is a terrible business strategy!
Personally, I avoid Trader Joe’s chicken. Clean chicken, such as Smart Chicken or the non-GMO feed, Organic, Humainly Raised Certified Springer Mountain Farms which is third party verified. This can be found under the Nature’s Promise label at Stop & Shop.
http://WWW.springerMTN.com (or) [email protected]
Thank you so much for writing this article; When I realized Trader Joe’s was founded by Nazis, I stopped trusting them completely. Your article has excellent information & the comment section does, too. Imo, most large corporations are scamming their consumers…Whole Foods is selling products with the words ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Korea’ in tiny letters & many ‘natural’ products have ‘natural flavors’, which are usually toxic. Maybe it’s best to buy from small ‘mom & pop’ stores or farmer’s markets…or just grow your own organic food; That way you know what you’re eating. We need to stop supporting unethical greed due to conveniency & stop trusting companies that do not reveal every ingredient in their products. Ever since I stopped eating products that were ‘processed in a facility with soy’, I’ve lost a lot of weight and have felt much better. If a company is being secretive about their ingredients, there’s definitely an agenda. I will not be shopping at Trader Joe’s again.
I suspect that they use preservatives on their packaged nuts. I am allergic to sulfur, and when I eat pretty much any of their nuts, my tongue swells up (my personal reaction to eating sulfites.) There is nothing on the label about any preservatives, but I think they warehouse them for a long time, and they do it to extend their shelf life.
Hello Vani Hari,
What about the “Certified organic branded Trader Joe’s products?”
Does that include their Organic Eggs?
You listed their eggs as a no no, but did not specify which type.