Whole Foods and Trader Joe's sued over lead

California's attorney general says those stores, plus Target and others, failed to warn consumers about tainted products.

By Jason Notte May 2, 2013 2:08PM
File photo of a Whole Foods store in Santa Monica, Calif.; File photo of a Trader Joe's in New York City (© Reed Saxon/AP Photo; Andrew Gombert/epa/Corbis)With ground beef in Europe tainted with horsemeat, ground turkey in the U.S. laden with feces and food everywhere being mislabeled, grocery shoppers turn their lowly eyes to a chemical-averse, free-range Superman: The organic supermarket. Well, even Superman's vision can be clouded by a little lead.


California has filed a lawsuit again Whole Foods Market (WFM) and Trader Joe's, along with Target (TGT) and other manufacturers and distributors, alleging the companies are selling lead-tainted ginger and plum candies without warning labels required by law.


Attorney General Kamala Harris' office says laboratory tests found lead in the products, but didn't note in the lawsuit how much was found. It also didn't respond to a request by the Associated Press seeking that information.


Under California's Proposition 65, a product that contains even small amounts of lead or other chemicals identified by the state as harmful to human health must carry a label warning consumers. In Whole Foods' case, the suit says the supermarket's "bulk ginger" and The Ginger People Baker's Cut Crystallized Ginger Chips violate the law. At Trader Joe's, the suit says lead was found in uncrystallized candied ginger.


Despite efforts to limit lead use and exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 500,000 U.S. children are still believed to have lead poisoning. While most were exposed to lead through old paint and dirt tainted with leaded gasoline, the CDC notes that children who come in contact with lead in any fashion risk brain damage and lower IQ as a result.


These allegations of tainted food put Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in some interesting downmarket company. Burger King (BKW), Yum Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell, Wal-Mart (WMT) and Ikea outlets throughout Europe have all come under fire for selling tainted meat.


Meanwhile, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's were involved in a Consumer Reports study of tainted turkey meat that also drew samples from Cargill's Shady Brook Farms, Jennie-O, Perdue and Publix. The study singled out the organic grocers by noting that that conventional ground turkey and turkey labeled "no antibiotics," "organic," (which doesn't use antibiotics) or "raised without antibiotics" were equally likely to contain bacteria associated with fecal contamination.


Get those gardens ready, wary shoppers.


More on moneyNOW

221Comments
May 2, 2013 3:06PM
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Good job, California, require that candles tainted by lead be labeled, but it's ok if GMOs aren't. Oh, right, your legislators got paid off for that decision...
May 2, 2013 3:25PM
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Let me guess, Monsanto is getting into the Organic Food market
May 2, 2013 5:16PM
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Brain damage and lower IQ?  Congress must be really downing this stuff.
May 2, 2013 3:19PM
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I am just going to start growing my own groceries and raise my own meat... We can't trust our government, or "organic" food.  Who can we trust but ourselves? What happened to the people we voted/ or didn't vote for?  I am ashamed of our government.

Protect the rich....

May 2, 2013 3:36PM
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Am I to understand that it is OK to sell lead-tainted candy as long as it is properly labelled? I bet that would just fly off the shelves.
May 2, 2013 6:21PM
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How about we sue the government for not labeling GMO foods?
May 2, 2013 5:17PM
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Ginger & Plums, eh!?! 

CHINESE IMPORTS, Maybe???

May 2, 2013 3:38PM
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Interesting that the headline sensationalizes it as a flaw of 'organics' when I bet this candy product was not even 'organic,' and it also included a store, Target, not known for health food.  Kind of like headlines last year saying organics were 'no better than conventional food' when in fact the so-called study was not a study at all, and neglected to mention the main reason people buy organic; to avoid pesticides which organics still do. 

And...no way is candied anything a health food no matter where you get it.  Shame on so-called healthy food stores for selling so much non-organic stuff, and junk food and junk supplements. 

Regardless where you shop, 80% of the stuff in the store is probably a waste of money, or misleading.  I do try to buy organic but am seeing more and more evidence that organics is selling out its principals.  It is getting really hard to find quality real food that is uncontaminated with feces, chemicals, or hidden sugar, hidden MSG, etc.  I really feel bad for people who have to avoid certain things for life threatening reasons.  At least for the rest of us it's just a matter of trying to choose wisely, not a matter of instant life and death.
May 2, 2013 4:24PM
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Ginger and plum candies?  Lead tainted or not, who the heck eats that?  Yuck.
May 2, 2013 5:10PM
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if you're not buying your food from your local farmers market or growing food yourself, then you're not getting organic, period.
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There is lead in everything...it occurs in nature, for Cripe's sake. If you can't give us more facts...like the parts per million or other measurement standards, then just shut up and go write something you know about....because you sure don't do us any favors in this article. LOSER
May 2, 2013 7:02PM
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Oh yes, check the ginger. Meanwhile, let the big medical companies sell hip implants that have infected people like myself with metalosis because they were not studied properly.
May 2, 2013 3:49PM
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I've found two places in my community for produce, and one for meat.  Yes it is a bit more expensive, however.  and a little out of the way.  The dairy products I fixed last year when I found a local working farm to get my fresh dairy from, and they introduced me to the local produce company and the local meat company.  Plus, I get it delivered for only $3.00.
May 2, 2013 6:27PM
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i have to wear a hazzmat suit to replace your lead painted windows but it's okay to eat lead candy as long as it's labeled
May 2, 2013 2:57PM
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So, some foods are "tainted" and they are being sued because they didn't tell people?  Is that why the legal drug lords aren't sued more often?  Is it because they say something like "ask your doctor" if this is right for you and then say something like "don't take this stuff if you're breathing. It might kill you.  If you've evey had a heartbeat, don't take this stuff. If you have a family history of having heartbeats, don't take this stuff.  If you can't afford your "medicine" you may get one month's supply for free.  Then, once hooked, you're on your own.  Is that why they aren't sued? Because they tell people the junk might kill them?  Our country needs to go belly up! The sooner, the better!!!!

May 2, 2013 6:16PM
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Not just California but the Fed's too are going after the Organic food market. And going after it big time!
May 2, 2013 3:04PM
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The obvious answer........WF and TJ's should pull out of Cali.
May 2, 2013 4:20PM
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This is just another way the state extorts money out of it's taxbase.  The levels they place on these prop 65 protucts are unreasonably low.   They don't even state what the rediculous leves are.  Bis A was deemed fine 2 years ago but now that the environazi libs are in full control suddenly the same report with the same levels is deemed unxeceptable.

 

The headlines are just full of people dying of lead poisoning now aren't they - not!.   It must be fattening and cause laziness too because this state is full of obese kids and deadbeat parents.

May 2, 2013 4:07PM
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I wonder if the vendors were notified of the results prior to filing a lawsuit, to allow them some time to correct the problem?  They were probably unaware of the problem.  If not, then dirty pool, they'll have to correct it anyway and wasting money on a lawsuit is stupid if the problem is corrected.  If they did not respond, then kudos, I agree completely with the lawsuit. 

 

 

May 2, 2013 6:15PM
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The sheeple are paying big dollars to poison themselves.  Typical of CA Wholefoods and other markets that sell "organic" junk.

I stopped shopping there a long, long time ago when Wholefoods was busted for buying apples and other foods from their local markets and slapping their organic labels on them.

They should have been shut down for that, and now this.  Shut the chain down. 

What does this bs store have to do in order to be shut down.  Kill someone or many people with their overpriced foods.



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