Perhaps it’s time for Whole Foods to adopt Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra

Whole Foods has been in the news on a couple of topics lately regarding food freedom and indirect suppression of consumer voices. First here’s an excerpt from David E. Gumpert’s recent Complete Patient post about how the talk about Whole Foods bringing raw milk back into their stores, once insurance and production standards issues had been sorted out, seems to be ringing false:

Home page of Organic Consumer Association, another group that's impacted by Whole Foods.

“Forget all that talk about Whole Foods developing raw milk standards and bringing unpasteurized milk back to its stores in California, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Connecticut.

Dairies in California and Pennsylvania were told today that the ban is indefinite, likely long term.

“Whole Foods never intended on bringing raw milk back to the shelves in California or anyplace in the U.S.,” says Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co.

“OPDC provided the $10 million in coverage requested and everything that anyone would want for food safety…Wholefoods is not putting raw milk back onto any shelves in the U.S. for the short term and foreseeable long term. No rational reason was given…We also were never given the Whole-Foods-team-developed enhanced national raw milk production safety standards that Whole Foods promised to us.”

On the East Coast, the message was essentially the same. “I literally just got off the conference call with the Whole Foods people for the Mid-Atlantic region,” writes Edwin Shank of The Family Cow. “Liability was the reason we were given.”…”

Read that whole post here — “Raw Milk Casualties: Dairies say goodbye to Whole Foods”

And as if that wasn’t bad enough on it’s own, now it looks like Whole Foods has been influencing two of its suppliers to drop their sponsorship of the trouble-making Organic Consumer Association (OCA). Here’s an excerpt from a report on that story from the Corporate Crime Reporter titled “Whole Foods, United Natural Foods muscle suppliers to boycott consumer group:

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) carries a big public interest stick.

It can mobilize the 850,000 people in its network to pressure corporations and governments.

The goal – clean, safe, organic foods and products for America.

One way that OCA raises money – it charges for ads on the group’s popular web site – organicconsumers.org.

Two companies had purchased logo space on the OCA web site – Organic Valley and Nature’s Path.

Until last year.

That’s when the groups dropped their sponsorship.

Under pressure from Whole Foods Market and United Natural Foods – the two companies that dominate the organics market in the United States.

That’s according to OCA’s national director Ronnie Cummins.

“National sponsors like Organic Valley and Nature’s Path have been threatened by Whole Foods and United Natural Foods that if they continue to support the Organic Consumers Association they will suffer repercussions in the marketplace,” Cummins told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.

“We had to take down those logos,” Cummins said. “We understand. We don’t want a company to go bankrupt simply because they support the right thing.”
Cummins said high ranking executives at the Organic Valley and Nature’s Path told him about the threats – but asked that he not disclose their names.

“Whole Foods is very careful,” Cummins said. “Whole Foods has threatened to sue us a number of times. But they are very careful when they do this sort of arm twisting and intimidation to not leave any evidence of it. This was all verbally committed over the phone or in person.”

The executives from Nature’s Path and Organic Valley “apologized to us and made me promise not to use their names,” Cummins said.

“We are trying to protect these companies and these individuals from the fallout from Whole Foods and United Natural Foods,” Cummins said.

Cummins estimates that OCA lost a total of $40,000 in projected ad revenue as a result of the move.

But he understands that Organic Valley and Nature’s Path can’t afford to offend Whole Foods and United Natural Foods – the main distributor of organic foods in the United States….”

“….Whole Foods spokesperson Libby Letton said that Whole Foods did not pressure the two companies to pull the ads.

“For the OCA to continue to mislead consumers about Whole Foods Market and UNFI is alarming and disheartening,” Letton said. “When the OCA launched an untrue campaign against us last year, we did contact our stakeholders, including our suppliers, Team Members, and shoppers, because we wanted to clear up the misinformation that was being spread by the OCA’s campaign. We find it troubling that while the OCA accuses us of pressuring our suppliers against them, they openly call on Whole Foods Market to ‘put the pressure on’ suppliers to transition to organic.”

“Meanwhile, the truth is that Whole Foods Market continues to champion organics more than ever. We take enormous pride in working with hard-working and ethical organic farmers and food producers to offer our shoppers the very best organic products on the planet,” Letton said.

United Natural Foods could not be reached for comment”

Read that whole story here on the corporate crime reporter.

More background on the companies involved. Thanks to Salt Spring News for drawing our attention to this story.

Slightly related: Steve Jobs says Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra is bullshit

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Perhaps it’s time for Whole Foods to adopt Google’s “Don’t be Evil” mantra

  1. Kymus

    Whole Foods strong-arming companies into submission doesn’t sound accurate. Whole Foods has these “core values” that are like their bill of rights, which they take rather seriously. One of these core values is to create win-win partnerships with suppliers. IMO, someone misunderstood something somewhere because that’s not what Whole Foods does.

    There’s this trend of a perception that Whole Foods is just another giant corporation that really doesn’t believe in what they sell and they’re just filling in a niche market because it’s there; that’s very, very far from the truth.

  2. thebovine

    I hope what you say is true, Kymus. I think it comes down to a question of who’s lying, Whole Foods or the OCA. Readers will have to decide for themselves… or just keep an open mind until we have further indications one way or another.

    And what’s with Whole Foods’ intransigence on carrying raw milk, even though Mark’s offering them insurance coverage? It makes their earlier assertion that they were looking for ways to bring raw milk back look like empty PR.

    • Kymus

      In my opinion, I think (HOPE) something got misinterpreted along the way. I really don’t think the OCA would blatantly lie about Whole Foods, and likewise Whole Foods is dedicated to having good relations with their suppliers.

      I’m really disappointed that Whole Foods is no longer carrying raw milk. I want to make that very clear. All my ancestors were dairy farmers, so anything that affects dairy farmers hits close to home. Without being in the same position as Whole Foods, it’s hard for me to understand their decisions; most especially since someone has already offered to cover insurance costs. For whatever reason unbeknownst to us, Whole Foods feels the dire need to cover their ass in this case.

      • nedlud

        You don’t understand, how deep the rot (and the fantasy) goes, you have a fantastical (ie., false) view of American organizations and institutions created by years of American propaganda, much of it hidden and insidious, albeit constantly present.

        For a mirror look (at yourself), read this:

        http://c4ss.org/content/2101

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