Oh Whole Foods, it’s getting worse not better…

7 May
Whole Foods card

Prepared Foods case at the Westwood store in Los Angeles

Good ol’ Whole Foods. Will they ever get their vegan/vegetarian labeling act together? Will they ever hire staffers who understand what both words mean and the difference between them? How on Earth can they sell two Beyond Meat vegan chicken salads, yet label one of them “vegan” but the other one merely “vegetarian” even though the name of the item itself starts with “vegan”?! It’s really mind-boggling, isn’t it? Adding to the mystery, it appears that Whole Foods has decided to start removing the “Beyond Meat” name from the Beyond Meat items they are selling, even though up until recently they not only included the name Beyond Meat in both the name and ingredients list for these products, they even had secondary cards clipped to many of them touting the fact that they were made with Beyond Meat! But as you can see here, one item lists its main ingredient as “Beyond Meat Chicken” but the other just calls it “Chicken-Free Strips” without mentioning the company’s name. Has there been some kind of dispute or falling out? Very odd.

Either way, the labeling error here is part of a larger problem I’ve seen at Whole Foods for the past few years. Many of their prepared food items that, based on their ingredients lists, are obviously vegan, are instead labeled as vegetarian. And of course such carelessness makes you wonder what’s really in any of their products or how many of their other products are mislabeled. And further, it makes me wonder what Whole Foods’ definition of “vegan” is for purposes of labeling these cards. Does “vegan” extend to honey? Bone char in refined sugar? “Natural flavor” that might include animal products? If they’ve published their definition of what makes something “vegan” I can’t find it.

There really needs to be a soul-searching at Whole Foods and some respect paid to the desires and needs of their vegan customers, especially since John Mackey the head honcho there is himself vegan. John, do you follow my blog?

8 Responses to “Oh Whole Foods, it’s getting worse not better…”

  1. Poppy May 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Shocking!

  2. Tilde May 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I worked at Whole Foods for quite a long time. The sign making process is kind of broken. One Team Member on each team is responsible for ordering signage. It’s a pain in the ass and you don’t get paid any extra for it. The person who is ordering signage for the Prepared Foods Team at your store clearly doesn’t understand what is vegan and what is vegetarian, hence the signage confusion.

    That said, WF takes comment cards hella seriously. I’m sure if you filled out a comment card (or hell, emailed a link to your blog post to the store’s email address) they would make some improvements.

    • insufferablevegan May 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      Thanks for the explanation and the tip. The problem I’ve found is that there’s no way to directly email the stores. You’re directed by the Whole Foods website to use a drop-down menu and then your comment is forwarded to the store. You’re never given their direct email address, and, those emails are NEVER returned. The only way I’ve gotten any response is to tweet their national twitter account @WholeFoods, then they will contact the store but that is often a black hole, too. The weirdest part to me is that Mackey is vegan and yet it seems for the most part there is no understanding and very little respect for anyone purchasing or even asking about vegan items.

      • Joni Marie Newman June 2, 2013 at 10:31 am #

        As a vegan and someone who also works at WFM, know that I take the veganocity of products served at my store very, very seriously, but as the poster above stated, the sign making process is kind of broken. Your comment about the removal of the Beyond Meat name from the signs has nothing to do with a falling out with Beyond Meat, but rather a laziness/ignorance/or simply they ran out of space issue on the part of the signmaker or the data entry person, by not typing it out in the full name in the ingredients list. And the misuse of the term vegetarian instead of vegan may simply be lack of knowledge by the person requesting the sign. I agree that this is a problem that needs to be addressed, but since each store and each department is responsible for their own signs it is pretty difficult. FYI, the vegetarian label should be used if the item is made offsite and contains dried cranberries because the sugar used in the cranberries cannot be verified as vegan. Most LA stores order dried cranberries that are indeed vegan for use in house made products. “Vegan” should not be used on signs for items containing honey.

  3. Una Nelson-White December 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Go to Ocean Beach Peoples Market to shop and problem solved. No label problems there, unlike at at Whole Paycheck.

    • insufferablevegan December 8, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      That’s in San Diego and I’m in Los Angeles but if I’m ever in that area I will check it out!

      • Una Nelson-White December 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

        Too bad. Maybe you have local food coop in your area. There must be farmers markets, which always have local organic produce. Anything is better than Whole Paycheck.

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