Clean Eating

Are Trader Joe’s Private Label Foods Safe?

July 17, 2012

Trader Joe’s responds to suspect ingredients in their private label foods

I’d like to preface this post with, I like Trader Joe’s for the most part and I shop there often. However, I know I have to read the labels to ensure I am not eating harmful GMOsI recently inquired with Trader Joe’s on their quality assurance and/or testing for suspect ingredients in their private label products.  It’s really difficult for me too see corn, soy or sugar on a label and not raise an eye brow. When I asked one of the clerks at my neighborhood TJ’s they recommended I contact the company so I went to their company website.

TJ’s website is pretty vague and short of  a handwritten sign in the store that states ‘GMO ingredients are not used in their private label products’ there really is no more information available to the consumer. The fact is Trader Joe’s DOES carry GMO products on their shelves and the manufacturers of their private label products DO manufacture GMO products as well.  While many of their private label products are believed to come from reputable companies such as Annies Homegrown which supports the Non-GMO Project or Amy’s Kitchen (more expensive at Whole Foods), the reality is the source of the private label products more of a mystery than anything else.  So, I wanted to dig a little deeper and inquire directly with the company.

To TJ’s:

I notice TJ’s private label products contain non-organic ingredients such as corn, corn syrup, sugar, soy, soy lecithin to name a few that are among the most highly genetically modified foods in the US. What kind of quality assurance and/or GMO testing is done with your suppliers and manufacturers to ensure they are are not GE ingredients since they are not coming from an organic source?

Response from TJ’s:

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

When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product in question 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 perform random audits of items with 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.

We’re unable to make the same claims for branded products. Organic products, regardless of brand, are by definition non-GMO.

We appreciate your understanding,

Customer Relations

Response to TJ’s:

Thank you for your response. Are the final products with suspect ingredients tested or just the ingredients tested?

I would like to first state I am a TJ shopper. However, I know what I’m looking for when I read labels. The average consumer does not.

Non-GMO labeling is voluntary as you know. It is a growing consensus among consumers that if TJ’s wishes to take that approach to GMO’s that it would only make sense to remove all GMO products from the store all together, such as Kashi products. Consumers rely on stores such as TJ’s (which claims to be a natural health food store) for healthy foods. For example, many people think Kashi cereals are healthy simply because TJ’s carries it.

Much how a celebrity endorses a charity to bring awareness, TJ’s is in a unique position to help remove the burden of being an ‘ingredient detective’ from the consumer until legislation is passed that forces manufacturer’s to label GMO’s in their products. TJ’s can also help support the organic industry, which is under assault, before it is too late simply by not selling GMO products. I personally don’t understand why TJ’s would carry anything containing GMOs for these reasons and I know others agree. 

Hopefully, TJ’s will consider taking a more meaningful stand on this important issue. I don’t see how this would do anything but gain a higher respect and brand loyalty within the TJ communities.

Thank you in advance for your feedback.

Response from TJ’s:

 [Response yet to follow…check back soon!]

Not ALL foods at Trader Joe’s are healthy

If your not a label reader or you do not know what ingredients to look for you may make the mistake of assuming all foods carried by Trader Joe’s are healthy to eat. This is a reasonable assumption due to their effective brand marketing which projects that of a health food grocer.  However, they do carry GMO products so you have to read labels.  Please read more about The Trouble with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and GE Foods to build your awareness.

Ultimately it’s a personal responsibility to ensure healthful eating

Would it be nice if multi-billion dollar companies such as Trader Joe’s took a bigger commitment to support only natural or organic farmers vs. genetically engineered food manufacturers…yes! Should the FDA require manufacturers to  label foods containing GMOs…of course! I think the US should ban genetically engineered (GE) foods all together similar to other countries. That fight is ongoing so for now the only guaranteed assurance is your own personal education and dedication to living a healthful organic lifestyle.

If GMO foods at Trader Joe’s concerns you please boycott them starting immediately

If Trader Joe’s can not move those products off their shelves…you guessed it, they get discontinued. Ultimately the change we want starts with our own cart selections at our neighborhood grocer.

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