Trader Joe's is a popular food store patronized by the health conscious and cost conscious alike. In many areas they compete fairly well with Whole Foods, who is considered by many to be the leader in the healthy food store arena. One area in particular that Trader Joe's fails to measure up to Whole Foods, is in the implementation of GMO labels on their food products. Whole Foods has voluntarily labeled many items GMO free and has officially implemented a GMO label program which is scheduled to be in full force by 2018. While many consumers believe there is no valid reason why Whole Foods needs until 2018 to have their GMO label program in full force, at least they have a target date for full implementation. All this begs the question as to why doesn't Trader Joe's use GMO labels on their food products.
When we asked this question at a local Trader Joe's food store, in part the answer we received, was that the FDA does not require them to do so. Further that all food products bearing the Trader Joe Label are GMO free, as stated on their website. Even though their website does in fact discreetly state as much, Trader Joe's does not appear to advertise, market or promulgate it in any significant way. In light of the recent 3.4 million dollar false label class action lawsuit settlement against Trader Joe's (See our February 21, 2014 blog at www.liattorney.com/scales-of-justice.html), many consumers can't help but wonder if that has something to do with it.
In the interest of fairness and in an effort to afford Trader Joe's redemption, we inquired with Trader Joe's corporate office for a more official answer as to their GMO policy. Corporate explained that the reason they do not have GMO labels is that all food products bearing the Trader Joe label are GMO free and that they believe the Trader Joe label is synonymous with a GMO free label. That all suppliers of their Trader Joe labeled food products must attest that their food is GMO free, sign a legally binding agreement to that effect and consent to random inspections by a third party to verify the GMO free nature of the food being supplied. Although Trader Joe's will not reveal the identity of any of the third party inspectors, they maintain that they are monitoring the GMO label movement and are continuously reviewing and considering store policy changes.
Perhaps Trader Joe's should consider being a leader in their industry, instead of being more of a follower. If all of their food products bearing the Trader Joe label are already GMO free, it should be comparatively easy and cost effective to include a GMO free label on these products, affording additional credibility and consumer assurance. Further, it shouldn't take until 2018 to do so, leap frogging Trader Joe's ahead of Whole Foods. In the absence of a GMO label law, as with many things, it appears to be a matter of trust. However, with the track record of the food industry and the governmental agencies that control it, most consumers are only willing to maintain that "In God We Trust."
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.