Extensive case of mislabeling: Investigation alleges Whole Foods Overcharges

New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) said Wednesday 24 June that an ongoing investigation on Whole Foods Market stores has found systemic overcharging of its customers for pre-packaged food.

The investigation by the DCA tested 80 different types of pre-packaged food from the city’s Whole Foods locations (eight were open at the time of the investigation; a ninth has since opened). The inspection found all categories included products with incorrect weights, which led to overcharges that ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for coconut shrimp. The overcharges were especially prevalent in packages that had been labelled with exactly the same weight when it would be practically impossible for all of the packages to weigh the same amount. The investigation also examined vegetable platters, nuts, chicken tenders and berries.

The DCA added, in addition, that 89 percent of the tested packages were not in line with the federal standards for the maximum amount “that an individual package can deviate from the actual weight”.

Whole Foods said in a statement: “We disagree with the DCA’s overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves. We cooperated fully with the DCA from the beginning until we disagreed with their grossly excessive monetary demands. Despite our requests to the DCA, they have not provided evidence to back up their demands nor have they requested any additional information from us, but instead have taken this to the media to coerce us.”

Both Whole Foods and DCA declined to discuss specific numbers, citing the fact that the investigation is ongoing.

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