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. 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:
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.
GMOs and General Mills
I went ahead and shared this article with my Facebook community, 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. 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 to the campaign. According to TriplePundit.com 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) 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, 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?