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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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1,120 responses to “What Is Trader Joe’s Hiding?

  1. 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!

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

    2. I looked it up for you since you can’t be bothered; US white distilled vinegar is made from corn, probly GMO.

      Most people use apple cider vinegar for eating and cooking with. Most people use white for safe cleaning products.

      1. Jean, I am well aware of the fact that US white distilled vinegar is made from corn, “probly GMO” (sic). You obviously can’t be bothered to read my initial statement in full where I acknowledge this. I am simply wondering why white vinegar doesn’t make it onto Food Babe’s list of likely GMO ingredients.
        Thanks for your kind assistance.

      2. i don’t know about most people, but I cook with white vinegar. i imagine others do too.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

      1. 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.

  4. 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”.

    1. I just nearly choked at “Don’t we have enough water here in California?!”
      You must live in SoCal…

      1. Funny that you pointed at the water problem here in Socal… We have a drought problem since a while, but we still love to use 40% of our filtered drinking water to keep our green lawns…

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

      2. Why is there so much anger and hostility in these comments? You can state your point passionately and boldly without shredding the character and integrity of others. Clean food is one thing. A clean spirit that doesn’t seek to spew filth is another.

    2. Owned by the same family, and a German, not a US company. Aldi just as secretive as Trader Joe’s. I don’t shop at either, although both are now in north TX area.

  5. 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.

      1. Are Trader Joe’s “Organic Blue Corn Chips” truly organic? Is the corn in them ALL non GMO?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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!

    1. 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)

      1. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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  15. 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).

    1. The third party that the Trader Joe’s website refers to is the third party laboratory that Trader Joe’s sends high risk products (corn, soy, etc.) out to in order that they be tested on a very randomized basis. The reason that they send it to a third party lab is to ensure that no data returns with a tainted result.

      Also, the products are privately labeled in order to ensure those guarantees. It is a part of the contract that Trader Joe’s has with each of its vendors. This agreement and private labeling is one of the many tactful business practices that Trader Joe’s uses in order to cut costs and pass on some savings. If they are purchasing a large contract with a pastry company that sell their IDENTICAL item for $15, but Trader Joe’s is selling it for $8.99, why in the world would the manufacturer want their label showing??? THEY WOULD LOSE SALES! Those are just a few of the reasons that Trader Joe’s chooses to private label its products. Not to be “sneaky”.

      Also, some of the small things that Trader Joe’s does cut costs of RUNNING their business cuts their costs in BIG ways. Not having a conveyor belt running and burning unnecessary floor space and electricity ALL DAY LONG helps to cut costs and is eco friendly; not to mention that it allows you to slide your cart to an employee to unload instead of having to do it yourself. Their smaller store sizes and minimal back stock space allows for lower rent due to a more efficient sized retail space. Cheaper to rent, heat, cool and run in general. Also, this is a company that treats its employees with respect, not only face to face, but also professionally: great benefits, great pay, great work atmosphere. Comparing to others, Trader Joe’s is one of the best chains/corporate grocery stores that you are going to find.

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  17. 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.

    1. Good info, thanks. The Charles Shaw chardonnay has won awards (in blind taste tests).

  18. 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.

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  20. 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??

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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 :/

      2. 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!

    2. whole foods is a HUGE ag out of Texas. They have an agenda and I don’t trust them. plus they’re extremely expensive. I shop at my local organic grocery store. not a chain. find one in your town. I won’t shop at TJs any more. thnks for the info.

  22. 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.

    1. The caramel color in all Trader Joe’s products is from burnt sugar, it is not chemically produced (and gluten free).

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  25. 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?

    1. If a food is “truly” organic, it is not GMO. But like you stated how much can you truly believe is actual organics unless you farm it yourself, or know who is farming it. It is truly unfortunate how much research you have to do now days on what your eating!

      1. Empirical testing, with myself as a guinea pig. Believe me, I know when there are MSG in foods. I get an all day long dull headache that pain pills do nothing for.

  26. This is my first time on this site I love the info but wow are there some mean bullies here. This behavior should be banned from this site.

    Food Babe you need to get some trusted volunteer moderators to help you out with this.

  27. I do not want to sign up for future emails, I just have a question. On the GMO Ingredients A-Z list you provide, I noticed that you do not list wheat or any wheat product, I’m confused since I thought most wheat grown in the USA is GMo. Am I wrong?? Thanks, Janice

    1. Janice, at the current time, there is NO gmo wheat being raised in the US. But rest assured that Monsanto is working on that. There was a farmer in Idaho who found a gmo wheat plant in his empty field. (He had it tested.) It was a stray and he didn’t plant it. So, they are trying to perfect this, but right now, there is no gmo wheat. This is a ploy that Monsanto does to claim a farmer stole his patented product and then sues the farmer to take his farm away from him. It is awful. If you aren’t gluten intolerant, then the wheat is not the gmo in any product, but there are most likely other gmo products in there. Just keep looking at ingredients. The most common gmo crops at the current time are corn, soy, and beets.

  28. I don’t think they are trying to hide anything. I am sure the Pita Chip story hold true for most of their private label items and they have to abide by these agreements. The point to me seems to be education. People needs to read labels, understand what the labels contain and know what organic and healthy mean…The “friend” in this article assuming everything in Trader Joes is organic and healthy has never learned these things I imagine.

  29. I bought a bag of organic yams at Trader Joe’s. I ate most of them but one. I left it in the cupboard for about 8 months. When I went to take it out to clean up, I was thinking this is going to be so gross it has been so long since I bought this yam. When I looked at the yam, it looked like I had bought it yesterday!!! Obviously Trader Joe’s does something to their produce to make it last longer. I also bought in the fresh section thin pizza layers with feta and spinach cheese. I brought it with me on a business trip and accidentally left my lunchbox with the food in my lunchbox. It took a month before I was able to get it. It had been kept in a dark closet. I opened up my lunchbox to take out the food from Trader Joe’s and the package looked like I had bought it yesterday!!! It said it had no preservatives and all natural, but there is no way something would stay like that without preservatives! I don’t trust Trader Joe products anymore!!!

  30. My question/statement is about the comment you stated below.

    “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.”

    cellulose is natural. it is the main component in most plant cell walls- for instance, celery. Humans do not contain the enzyme to fully break down cellulose but I do not see why you stated we should not be eating it?

  31. How did you find that out about “2 buck chuck”?? I am curious about their other wine: Green Fin Red table wine. IT is 3.99, made with organic grapes. So good – wondering if it is filled with other garbage too…

  32. Trader Joe’s discontinued their kimchi unfortunately. I do feel less trusting of TJs now that they’ve grown so quickly and find that their prices aren’t that great any more.

  33. Having worked for a company that supplies Trader Joe’s, I can tell you that the reason they refuse to show you the affidavits is because they do not ask for them! They never asked us for them, or made any attempt to verify that the products we supplied them with, which they sold under their label, conformed to their specifications. At one point, we were sending them something whose stated ingredients didn’t match the actual product at all, and while that was eventually corrected (years later), TJ’s never noticed. They really don’t check.

  34. A few months ago or so I sent Trader Joe’s an email about just these kinds of questions. Their response? No response. I thought that was arrogant at the least. You’d think that they’d at least send a form letter or something.

    I’ve had the feeling for a long time now that Trader Joe’s’ heart is not really in organic or non-GMO food, but in making money. One almost gets the idea that they are hostile to the pure food demographic (possibly even democracy itself) and I half expect some stunning revelation to come out at some point that proves it, and maybe that their food actually IS loaded with GMOs.

    Monsanto’s defense for years has been that since their junk was first introduced in 1996 that their has been no cancer caused by it. But then since they refuse to allow testing and labeling how would we know? Will Trader Joe’s defense be the same?

    There are many independent food markets where people can buy organic products. Trouble is, not only are they disorganized, their prices tend to be ridiculous; In my town it’s “New Frontiers”. Sure they have fine products, if you can afford them! Prices have not dropped at these places as was predicted when organic became widespread. These places have gotten used to big bucks and want to hold onto that loot. I find that consumer unfriendly at the least.

    My proposal: It’s time for people who care about what we eat and feed our families to band together and create OUR OWN, nationwide organic food chain! One by one, we should begin to either buy up or rent grocery store sized buildings, and/or buy up current independent stores, then do a house cleaning. Get rid of the junk and fill the shelves with only organic, sustainable, verifiable, free trade products. Make the Mission Statement a strong one and hire only executives that care.

    There are certainly a lot of us, all grudgingly shopping at places like Trader Joe’s (and complaining about our lack of choices and information), places that don’t really care what we think, that together our dollars could easily make this work. If we all migrate to a new chain (a chain for organization and the power to lower prices and dictate what we want on the labels, a chain for a name that would become famous) I guarantee that over night places like Trader Joe’s would change their tune. But by then it would be too late. I would suggest that places like the Cornucopia Institute would be a good help in this. A simple name for this store? How about The Organic Store?

  35. So Trader Joe’s came to Burlington Vt. Everyone was vibrating. I have NEVER been so disappointed in my life. What’s with all the processed food. The beef was not red it was bright pink (PINK SLIME???) My suspicion is that they find the cheapest products possible and slap their label on it and VOILA it says Trader Joe’s so it must be good. I tried ,really tried to find something from there I would feel safe eating and could not. More power to those who love it. When I saw 3 packs of frozen white rice next to the Chinese chicken in sauce I saw great marketing techniques but goodness the preservatives and additives are astounding. I will never darken their doorstep again.

  36. I am currently an employee for Trader Joe’s and i also order the produce section for our store and would like to clarify certain things about this article.

    1: Trader Joe’s officially rescinded it’s Non-GMO policy awhile ago, possibly around 2 years. It hard to ascertain when this article was written but im assuming it was after that since most the comments are from 2014. The reason the company took the policy away was not so we could use GMO ingredients in our products, but that we could be as honest as possible with our consumers. Due to the level cross contamination between GMO, Natural, and even organic product, Trader Joe’s can not 100% guarantee that the ingredients don’t contain GMO even at very minimal traces. That being said, no other company, whether fully organic or not, can truly give you that guarantee either, because cross pollination is so rampant in industrial farming even if it is USDA certified or any other form of organic certification.

    2. Despite retracting our policy, the company still holds to the same quality level as it did under that policy. The problem with many consumers (and clearly the author of this article) is the misconception that all corn and all rapeseed (raw canola) MUST be GMO. this is simply not true. Though a vast majority of Canola processed in the US and Canada is GMO (which was done to meet a growing consumer demand) that hardly means that there aren’t Non-GMO farms for these crops, as well as organic (yes you could grow organic rapeseed and make organic Canola if u want to).

    3. this article claims the company doesn’t label the country of origin on their products, which is also false, since by law we have to label any product that’s imported with the country of origin. I even know products that name several countries on their packaging. Obviously it is stating the country in which the product was made, not the origin of every ingredient listed, but i would challenge the author of this article to find a store that lists the origin country of every ingredient of every product they carry because Whole Food and Mrs. Greens surely don’t either. This doesn’t in any way imply that Trader Joe’s or any other company is lying or being intentionally deceptive and misleading by not putting this information on the packaging, and as i said before, even if u went to Corporate offices of Mrs. Greens and asked for this information, they still couldn’t give you a 100% guarantee that there isn’t GMO contamination in their food.

    4. All that being said, the choice is still up to the consumer to make their decision based on the information provided, which as the author did state is minimal, even for me, someone who orders food for one of the stores. I can guarantee that there is no GMO produce even if this claims the papayas are because GMO produce must have a 5 digit code starting 8 to identify is just like all organic produce has a 5 digit code starting with 9, and no produce at Trader Joe’s has a GMO code. If the company is lying from that point be re-labeling loose produce then i invite someone to find the truth as i would fully behind you and calling them out. Trader Joe’s as a company is based on 7 core values, the first of which is integrity, and as an employee i feel obligated to hold the company to that policy.

    5. Not shopping at Trader Joe’s, or only shopping organic products, will not protect you from GMO’s. As i have said a few times GMO contamination in the industrial farming complex is now rampant and will only continue to get worse. The ONE AND ONLY WAY to stop this is to simply stop growing GMO’s, something i am totally and wholeheartedly behind. I have written this because I think the author needs to be educated on the issues of GMO cross contamination in every sector of the American grocery complex and that no matter where you shop and no matter how prudent you are with what you eat, you will continue to be at risk until we completely stop the use of GMO’s.

  37. Why would you think a food is organic simply because it’s from TJ’s? That makes no sense at all. And I never buy produce at TJ’s. When you price it out it’s more expensice than whole paycheck.

  38. All of these concerns about whats gmo could be resolved if we labeled our gmo food. Like every other country. Where is americas real food movement??

  39. I never had so much troubles about what to eat. Suffering from lactose intolerance and fructose mal absorption it takes me hours to read all the labels and I still do not find products I can eat. Thinking that Trader Joe is a healthy store is just so not true. I tried to buy toast and not one single one that didn’t have sugar, honey, vinegar and about 25 other ingrediants who knows what. Bread needs exactly three things: wheat, yeast and water. Lots of products have high fructose corn syrup. There is a reason why there are so many fat Americans. I have never seen so many really extremely fat people as in the US. There must also be a reason why they are advertising all those cancer clinics on TV. This is frightening.

    1. Have you ever tried Ezekiel Bread? I heard it’s delicious and WAY better for you. Maybe you could give that a try? 🙂

      1. Have you ever looked at the directions for making Ezekiel Bread?

        “…and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man…” Eze 4.12

        – Bon Appetit

      2. look on the Wonder Mill flour mill site and you will find a NO FAIL recipe for Ezekiel bread that is wonderful!

    2. …yes its like The Twilight Zone of the 60’s come to life…this is frightening…they want to take control of the people, threw our food supply…horror’s !!!…what will come of this…and what will stop it !!!???

    3. The only non-sugar added bread I have ever found was at Whole Foods, which is depressing.

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