Whole Foods, the fancy upscale market purporting to sell organic, sustainable food, has issued an apology for perpetuating what the City of New York has called the “worst case of mislabeling” it has ever seen.
The apology has been made necessary by an investigation that revealed Whole Foods has been mislabeling their products since 2010 — they’ll also pay a $58,00 fine, the New York Daily News reported. The offenses may number in the thousands, added NBC New York.
The mislabeling occurred at nine of the chain’s NYC stores. In a sting operation, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs tested 80 prepackaged items and all of them were labeled with the wrong weights, which translates into the wrong price, the Washington Post reported.
Sometimes this meant customers paid too much for things like pecan panko (80 cents more) and coconut shrimp (a whopping $14.84), the agency concluded.
“New York City stores routinely overstated the weights of its pre-packaged products — including meats, dairy and baked goods — resulting in customers being overcharged.”
Not only were they not labeled correctly, the sting also concluded that 89 percent of Whole Foods’ packaging didn’t meet the U.S. Department of Commerce’s maximum allowable deviation from a package’s actual weight.
For those of you who’ve never seen or stepped foot inside a Whole Foods store, the company boasts devotion to sustainable agriculture, organic products, and commitment to locally sourced food, and aim to “satisfy, delight, and nourish” their customers.
In its apology for the systemic mislabeling the store placed the blame on its employees across nine stores, over the past five years.
Co-CEOs Walter Robb and John Mackey posted a video apology, in which they explained that the chain’s “sandwiches, squeeze juices, and hand-cut fruit” were weight or labeled incorrectly by store employees. Mackey added that the errors were negligible. Robb said they weren’t made on purpose, either.
“It’s understandable sometimes that mistakes are made. They are inadvertent. They do happen because it’s a hands-on approach to bringing you fresh food … Straight up, we made some mistakes.”
They also straight up plan to improve training in all of its stores, not just in NYC, which will be overseen by an auditor who’ll report his findings to the public. The DCA seems satisfied with the apology and plans for improvement, said Commissioner Julie Menin.
“We are gratified that, as a result of our investigation, Whole Foods is admitting the deficiencies in how they label their pre-packaged foods and taking steps to ensure no New Yorker is overcharged. DCA will remain vigilant and hold (it) and other supermarkets accountable for any misleading and deceptive practices.”
[Photo Courtesy Justin Sullivan / Getty Images]