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Trader Joe’s Doesn’t Allow GMOs in Their Private Label Products

Groovy Green Livin Trader Joe's [1]

Trader Joe’s is a grocery store like no other. If you’ve been in one you know what I’m talking about. It’s a specialty retail grocery store with 395 stores, the majority in California with other locations in 30 states and Washington, D.C.. I use Trader Joe’s to stock up on nuts, cereals, pasta and some frozen foods. Their prices are good and the organic selection is abundant. 

Who makes Trader Joe’s Food?

Yesterday The Huffington Post published an interesting article: Who Makes Trader Joe’s Food?: A Taste Test [2]. The article discusses how it’s a known fact that Trader Joe’s sells marked-down name-brand products disguised under its own label, but which big brands make the specific products is a secret. According to the article [2]:

Big brands are willing to operate under Trader Joe’s cloak of secrecy, under which the “vendor shall not publicize its business relationship with TJ’s in any manner.”

The author went on to perform a taste test with 10 Trader Joe’s products and their rumored big-brand matches. One of the comparisons was Trader Joe’s O’s to Cheerios which is rumored to make Joe’s O’s. The author is very clear that these are rumored match-ups.

Groovy Green Livin Trader Joe's [3]

GMOs and General Mills

I went ahead and shared this article with my Facebook community [4], which is wonderful and very active. People expressed their love for Trader Joe’s, but then voiced an overwhelming concern that Trader Joe’s private label products could contain GMOs [5]. This was based upon the possibility that General Mills, the owner of Cheerios, is the maker of Joe’s O’s.

General Mills is known to have supported the defeat of Prop 37 in California, a law that would require food companies and retailers to label products made with GMOs.  General Mills contributed $1.1 million [6] to the campaign. According to TriplePundit.com [7] there’s no proof  that Cheerios uses GMOs, but its contribution to “No on Prop 37” and use of such ingredients as corn starch and Vitamin E are strong indicators.

So the concern that Trader Joe’s was using General Mills to make Joe’s O’s was a real concern-this would mean that Trader Joe’s O’s contained GMOs.

I contacted Trader Joe’s to find out if their products contained GMOs

Trader Joe’s is a tough company to contact. They’re not big on social media-so I couldn’t reach them via Twitter or Facebook. I resorted to using their contact info directly on their site. I sent a quick email stating who I was and asking if they use GMOs in their private label products.

Amy from Trader Joe’s customer relations department responded quickly: “While we do not disclose manufacturer’s for our brand, we can state this article (the Huffington Post article [8]) is not accurate and Cheerios from General Mills and Joe’s O’s cereal are not the same product and not produced by the same manufacturer.”

She went on to say:

In regards to GMO sourced ingredients, our approach to Genetically Modified Organisms is simple: we do not allow GMO ingredients in our private label products (anything with Trader Joe’s, Jose’s, Ming’s, etc. on the label).

When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product in question perform the necessary research to provide documentation that the suspect ingredients are from non-GMO sources.

This documentation is in the form of affidavits, identity-preserved certification of seed stock, and third-party lab results from testing of the ingredients in question.

In addition to this work done in developing a given item, we perform random audits of items with suspect ingredients, using an outside, third-party lab to perform the testing.

Given our position on GMO ingredients in Trader Joe’s label products and the work done in support of that position, it is our expectation that our products test as non-GMO.

We have yet to take the approach of labeling products as non-GMO because there are no clear guidelines from the US governmental agencies covering food and beverage labeling.

Instead of waiting for such guidelines to be put into effect and based upon customer feedback, we took a more holistic approach and made the no GMO ingredients position part of what the Trader Joe’s label encompasses.

We’re unable to make the same claims for branded products. Organic products, regardless of brand, are by definition non-GMO.

Much of this information is also available on the Trader Joe’s website.

Another request for Trader Joe’s

Now we have confirmation that their private label products don’t contain GMOs [9], but it’s not enough. Rather then taking a neutral stance Trader Joe’s needs to step forward and join so many other retailers who believe in food label transparency and our right to know what’s in our food.

Do you shop at Trader Joe’s?

photo credit: ianqui [10] via photopin [11] cc [12]
photo credit: Brave Heart [13] via photopin [11] cc [12]

10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "Trader Joe’s Doesn’t Allow GMOs in Their Private Label Products"

#1 Comment By Stefanie Kushner On February 14, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

I love Trader Joe’s food, and helpful employees. I love that they use non-GMO ingredients and haven’t found a dish that we didn’t like. I feel good feeding my family Trader Joe food and am glad they aren’t part of any major manufacturer that may be sneaking GMO ingredients into their food.
Stefanie Kushner recently posted.. [14]My Profile

#2 Comment By Green Bean On February 14, 2013 @ 11:49 am

Thanks for going the extra step and clarifying with TJs. I’m happy to hear there stuff is non-GMO but wish they would just come out and say that in the media. There were tons of comments and tweets regarding that article and GMOs. Why not be more upfront about it, Trader Joe’s?

#3 Comment By alicia On February 15, 2013 @ 10:56 am

Hi Lori –
After seeing the Huff Post article I was really curious too – especially about the Trader O’s vs Cheerios. Thank you for following up with them and sharing the feedback that you received. As an individual I’ve never been able to get a response back from Trader Joe’s on anything! I’m disappointed that TJ’s is living the non-GMO lifestyle but not stepping up to the plate to support the GMO legislature – even in their home state! I’ll be working with the GMO initiative in Washington State this year. We’ll see if we can get TJ’s involved here!

#4 Comment By Lori On February 17, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

Hi Alicia, I’ve had a difficult time contacting Trader Joe’s in the past. They don’t make it simple. Glad to hear you’re working on the GMO initiative in Washington. Thank you! It would be fantastic if TJ’s stepped up to the plate and took a proactive stance in favor of GMO labeling. Thanks so much for your comment.

#5 Comment By Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom On April 20, 2013 @ 11:59 am

Great read! Thanks for this! I shop here all the time, along with Whole Foods and Safeway. . good to know!

#6 Comment By diana On July 3, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

Thank you Trader Joe’s Love you!!!!!

#7 Comment By Wanda On August 8, 2013 @ 4:12 am

GMO free is not entirely true of their private label products, which is a drag.


#8 Comment By Lori On August 8, 2013 @ 7:59 am

Thank you for sharing Wanda. Just more ammunition in the fight for requiring labeling on all products. We have the right to know what’s in our food. For now it’s best to stick with organic product and food that’s been verified by THE “NON-GMO PROJECT VERIFIED” SEAL.

#9 Comment By Jody Avren On January 16, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

I read about how Trader Joe’s does not use GMO’s in their products. If this is true, then they should print it on their products! They need to be more strait forward, period!

#10 Comment By Lori On January 17, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

I agree Jody. Transparency needs to be there- labeling is the only way.