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.

10 most read articles in 2014

Dear readers,

This year Foodlawlatest.com doubled his visitors, and we have now more than 10.000 visits each month from more than 160 countries. It’s an amazing result and I have to thank you all my readers for this.

Here’s a recap of the 10 most read articles in 2014:

1. EU maintains ban on betel leaves from Bangladesh: a fabulous guest article written by my dearest friend Francesco Montanari, Food Law consultant in Lisbon, on import/export issues in EU, in particular regarding the ban of betel leaves import from Bangladesh.

2. EU – Breaking news on allergens labelling: in the first days of December DG Sanco opened a public consultation on Guidelines relating to the provision of information on substances or products causing allergies or intolerances as listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

3. Hepatitis A in frozen berries: the “silent outbreak” – My article on Meyerlegal newlsetter: on 8th September 2014, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the final results of its study on the epidemic of hepatitis A (HAV) that, last year, hit Italy and, to a lesser extent, several other European countries and that is thought to have been caused by some mix of frozen berries of Eastern-European origin. The article tries to highlight the reasons why this very outbreak should be considered an important stress test for the European food safety system as a whole nad why this event was so underestimated.

4. FSA UK – Organic Tofu recall due to a potential risk of botulism: a serious public health matter in April 2014.

5. EU Food Law Handbooka review of one of the most interesting and comprehensive book of the year on this topic. The book is edited by Prof. Bernd Van der Muelen and see the participation of really good friends and gifted professionals like Martin Holle (Nutrition policy in the European Union), Cecilia Kuhn and Francesco Montanari (Importing food into the EU), Rozita Spirovska Vaskoska and many others.

6. Study Demonstrates Superior Bioavailability of Curcumin Micelle: an interesting study for who is interested in the nutraceutical sector.

7. DG-SANCO published translated Q&A on Reg. UE 1169/2011: in May DG Sanco published the first and for now unique document of Q&A on the FIC Regulation in all the official languages of the Union.

8. Allergens Labelling (FIC Regulation n. 1169/2011) on Foodservice Consultant: a July article, published on this HORECA review about the upcoming allergens labelling in EU.

9. USA – FDA Egg Safety Rule: in November the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a regulation expected to prevent each year approximately 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis.

10. Written Q&A to EU Commission – Joint answer on trans fatty acids: in this answer to four written questions by MEPs (click the highlighted numbers to open them), Mr. Borg analyses the state of the art in EU about trans fatty acids. In US the issue is at the top of the FDA agenda. FDA this year has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of trans fat in the processed food supply, are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS.

Thank you all our readers. Keep reading and sharing and happy new year!