Trader Joe's Will Remove All Single-Ingredient Food From China From Their Stores By April 1

Trader Joe’s says consumers have demanded that they no longer carry single-ingredient food items from China and so that’s exactly what they’re going to do:

“Our customers have voiced concerns about products from this region and we have listened,” Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said in a statement.

“All single ingredient food items sourced from mainland China are scheduled to be out of our stores by April 1,” she said.

“We will continue to source products from other regions until our customers feel as confident as we do about the quality and safety of Chinese products.”

How do you feel about this decision? Are they caving to xenophobia? Or is this just the “invisible hand of the market” that everyone is always talking about?

US store chain cuts sales of food from China [Yahoo!]
(Photo:Payton Chung)

Comments

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  1. mandarin says:

    Good ‘ol TJs.. Always dependable. Could use a few more choices on the shelves but the prices are really good.

  2. melmoitzen says:

    So where can I get my edamame fix?

  3. BugMeNot2 says:

    so they are banning pees from china and nuts from china, but if the pees and nuts are in the same package then it is fine?

  4. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Yeah, I don’t get the “single-ingredient food item” thing either. Sounds like a PR move.

  5. specialed5000 says:

    @BugMeNot2: What about the pees from China that are in your Coke?

  6. SeraSera says:

    I actually walked into Foggy Bottom TJ’s a few months ago and heard someone ask where some item was, only to be told by an employee that the store didn’t have it anymore because it came from China.

    I wonder if they were implementing that policy early, or if “it comes from China, we discontinued it” was just a lulzy excuse for that stock worker?

  7. SuperSally says:

    It’s so they don’t have to pull chocolate chip cookies if the corn syrup in the chips came from China. They’d have to strip the walls bare if they pulled everything with a Chinese bit in it. Single item ingredients are easier to determine.

    And, no, I don’t think it’s xenophobia. I don’t think customers would’ve acted any differently in the least if we relied a ridiculous amount on Canada for food/toys and they were selling us tainted goods. I guarantee Trader Joe’s would be pulling Canadian stuff left and right.

  8. toddr4fun says:

    it’s probably too difficult to guarantee that the items in a multi-ingredient item is not from China. It would require a lot from their suppliers. Single ingredients are much easier to track and guarantee.

  9. wilmawonker says:

    how many ‘single item’ foods are there, besides the fresh food? I can’t see how this will affect much, since most of those are probably not from China anyway.

  10. shadow735 says:

    but if its edamame with salt isnt that two ingedients?

  11. klondikedog says:

    Example of single ingredient food:

    Apple juice- which is becoming increasingly difficult to find:
    A) Source of apples
    B) Non-Chinese apple juice

    K.

  12. Instigator says:

    @BugMeNot2: I don’t think Trader Joe’s should be selling pee, no matter what its country of origin.

  13. Buran says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: I don’t understand it either — it’s hard to find anything that only has one thing on the ingredient list. Even apple juice, which has stuff added to it.

  14. yesteryear says:

    i think this is great news. maybe if enough tainted food pops up from far flung locales we can finally start getting back to eating local food. its better for our economy, our local farmers, and will make a lot more sense when energy costs make it too expensive to eat edamame from another continent. to quote James Howard Kunstler (my hero), the age of the “3,000 mile ceasar salad is coming to an end”.

  15. Buran says:

    @SuperSally: Ditto on the it’s-not-xenophobia. I don’t think the Japanese were xenophobic when they banned beef that they were concerned might contain rogue prions (think mad cow). The Japanese don’t hate us (beyond their cultural distrust of foreigners — Michael Crichton’s “Rising Sun” is an eye-opener and a good read if you want to know more about Japanese culture) but want to make sure their food supply is safe. For some reason, that ban hasn’t been getting anywhere near as much press; my guess is that it’s old news now.

  16. Sherryness says:

    I need more information – why the “single ingredient” thing? Is there something bad about that I am missing. I love Trader Joe’s, and they have a higher-than-average trust rating with me, so if they are doing it, it’s probably a good thing. I really miss Trader Joe’s since moving.

  17. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Why are we buying fruits & vegetables from China to start with? I don’t understand how that could be profitable with the shipping costs.

    I worked with a producer off & on for years as a summer job as a kid & I can honestly say, I’ve never seen a standard-type produce item that came from China. Lots & lots from South America, Mexico, etc but none from China.

  18. failurate says:

    The tilapia market is crashing.

  19. ideagirl says:

    @wilmawonker: Not true, all produce I have ever seen in TJ’s is imported, and a lot of it is from China.

  20. sam1am says:

    Trader Joes’ customers probably just put an entire village of Chinese people out of work…

  21. ironchef says:

    Where am I going to get TEA???

  22. cparker says:

    @wilmawonker: fresh produce, meats, juices, nuts and bagged fruit(dried,freeze-dried and the like), and coffee. I’m not saying all those come from China, but they are all single-ingredient. And they take up 20-25% of the TJ’s i’ve been in.

    On the other hand, I don’t think it would be difficult to remove things that said “Product of China” either. (i.e. the whole thing comes from China)

  23. SirDidymus says:

    @melmoitzen: Japan.

  24. pestie says:

    @specialed5000: HAHAHAHA!!! See, this is why I read the comments.

  25. crunkbear says:

    From International Herald Tribune:
    “Garlic, frozen organic spinach and other “single ingredient” food items from mainland China will be phased out by April 1, although products that include ingredients from both China and other sources will remain.”

    Sounds like if everything in an item is from China they will also discontinue that item. I think it’s a good call, when it comes to food I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  26. stinkingbob says:

    I think its great. The fact is that China ships the USA food products/ consumer products that are unsafe and untested. Kudos to them. Until CHina cleans up their act, I would ban all food products from that country.

  27. akalish says:

    I understand the concern, but TJ’s should be placing requirements on their suppliers instead of eliminating products. China holds A LOT of their reserves in U.S. money (bonds and dollars). They have the power to basically sink America financially. Though what we need is smarter economic policy and more restrictive purchasing power (since that’s what got us in this hole in the first place), antagonizing the people whose government supports our buying habits pretty heavily will not help us in the long run. Every action has a resulting reaction…

  28. Snowblind says:

    Ironchef

    Good teas come from all over, and not all are from China:

    http://www.holymtn.com has them by origin.

    My fave is Golden Monkey, but the Shan Tea from Vietnam is just as good.

    And this is a good example of “invisable hand”. No one is put out by this and if you really want it, you can get it elsewhere.

  29. Snowblind says:

    @akalish:

    Dont worry it is a two way street. If we quit buying, they tank as well.

    This would never had happened if China did not peg it’s currency to ours. As we bought stuff from them and they loaned it back to us the Yuan (i think it is called) would have gone up against the Dollar, correcting the imbalance by raising prices for their goods and reducing the return on the investment here. That is the real bubble that drives the housing bubble (among others): keeping Chinese goods cheap and lowering the risk for Chinese investors that Dollars might become worth less and reduce the rate of return.

    Holding it artificially is what is creating the economic “stress” and boy is it gonna hurt if something let’s go.

    China has started to react by changing the exchange rate, but it should be done faster to reduce the pain. Too fast and both sides would collapse, to slow and it gets drawn out for a long time.

    US dollar falling against world currencies is the start, and it will help as the Yuan falls (tied to dollar at fixed rate) then Europe will buy more from them.

  30. jeff303 says:

    They already ditched their high-quality frozen broccoli, cauliflower, carrot mix. Yay for xenophobia and knee-jerk reactions.

  31. @yesteryear: So true (the Kunstler reference). It really stinks that people are just now realizing that transportation (oil) costs are pushing up food costs. Suddenly the local farmers market will be the cheapest option.

    Get your exotic fruits while ya can, folks!

  32. @sam1am: That village put a bunch of American farmers out of work 20 years ago. I’m wouldn’t get upset about it.

  33. bohemian says:

    I still can’t find a reason we need to import apples and frozen fish from China. Outsourcing large portions of our basic food needs to other countries isn’t good national security policy. Getting off season items because people like the luxury of blueberries in January is something optional.

    I try to not buy produce or fish from China. The lack of monitoring and high levels of toxic pollution concern me. But I also won’t buy farmed fish from Chile because they use Malachite green and get away with exporting said fish.

  34. forever_knight says:

    xenophobia? sigh. how many times do we have to go over this? are you just posting it for the hits? hit whores!

  35. Can xenophobia be the invisible hand of the market? Me thinks so. Here, I act in my own sinophobic interest, as do all of my redneck blue state buddies (apparently you can be sinophobic AND shop at TJ’s, which I always felt was a blue state kind of store). Our individual preference against China (the country, not the She-Male wrestler), moves the market towards whatever that invisible hand is supposed to do.

    That said, the invisible hand is supposed to move inexorably towards bigger better faster, stronger, cheaper, etc. So, maybe not. Maybe the invisible hand of those rules by the culture of fear moves inexorably away from progress. Or maybe China just makes crappy crap. Either way. Xenophobia can be the tool that drives Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

  36. ShortBus says:

    @akalish: They do. TJ’s has tested (and continues to test) their Chinese-sourced products six-ways to Sunday. Samples of everything is sent out to 3-4 independent labs. They are 100% certain that the stuff is ok. The reason it’s being pulled is soley because of customer outcry.

    TJ’s attracts a certain type of buyer and that demographic is more sensitive to this issue than most other grocery store patrons. Ergo, this decision was for business reasons, not safety reasons. They know it’s an irrational decision and hate to do this because it’s driving up the cost of their food. But the customers have spoken.

    (Yes, I have inside information on this. No, I don’t speak for TJs)

  37. cuiusquemodi says:

    @bohemian:

    When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.

    –Frédéric Bastiat.

  38. Trai_Dep says:

    Yay for TJs!

    Only way that China will improve – good gods, they’re poisoning their OWN people even worse than the world’s – is for them to get spanked.

    Granted, it will take a 1,000 person fraternity, each holding a wooden paddle, lined up next to China’s exposed backside before it has an impact. But: reddened buttocks, small strokes. Every one helps!

  39. @PotKettleBlack: In your example, I think the invisible hand is still working for the lower class portions of our society, giving them tainted and questionable food and somewhat affordable prices. So, yes, things are getting faster and cheaper, but at the cost of a great deal of quality.

    Hooray, free market!!

  40. kellyd says:

    @jeff303: I get the impression you don’t do a whole lot of dealing with Chinese businesspersons. In my line of work, I have a lot of contact with them. They make the ruthless American businessman stereotype seem tame. There is one goal: what they want/their money/success. They don’t give two darns for regulations, policies, procedures. It is not xenophobic to observe that their culture is a bit less concerned with stuff like safety or policy. The Bush administration has crippled our regulatory agencies; we can’t trust our government to be sure what we import is safe and it’s apparent from all the death and illness we’ve imported from China lately that they can’t at present be trusted with safety.

  41. rrapynot says:

    It’s hard to find peeled garlic, apple juice, frozen edamame and frozen broccoli that is not from China these days. I checked 7 different Edamame products at Whole Foods the other day and they were all from China, even the ones with Dora the Explorer on them.

  42. nuton2wheels says:

    @kellyd: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I simply avoid anything that says “Made in china” whenever possible. While this may not work when I’m looking for a new microwave oven, I’ve managed to bypass china when purchasing food, clothes, shoes, and shop tools. Sadly, it always makes me feel like I’ve beaten the system because it’s becoming increasingly hard to do…

  43. spinachdip says:

    @SirDidymus: Opening up the Japanese soybean market to imports pretty much killed the domestic industry. So I’m thinking the Republic of California is the most reliable source of soybeans these days.

  44. UpsetPanda says:

    @rrapynot: There’s frozen edamame with Dora the Explorer on it?! WHY?

  45. karmaghost says:

    In related news, Trader Joe’s prices skyrocket.

  46. spinachdip says:

    @karmaghost: I realize you’re kidding, but I’ll respond seriously anyway. If TJ’s can’t get a deal, they just don’t offer it. Their whole model is based on getting deals from producers, which leads to their seemingly haphazard selections.

  47. elizabethm says:

    Trader Joe’s might also want to consider better factory/manufacturing processes to avoid cross-contamination issues for people with severe allergies, i.e., not packaging/manufacturing stuff like on the same equipment that processes also seafood items and tree nuts.

    Although they do specify it on their labels with a clear warning – it is still a problem, especially with how many people purchase lots of TJ’s stuff for parties. I’ve had horrible reactions (shellfish allergy) and now just avoid anything Trader Jo’s b/c of it. I’ve heard other horror stories as well.

  48. elizabethm says:

    In other news: I’m so glad I live in California! fresh, lovely local farmer’s market produce everywhere and for a pittance.

  49. Benny Gesserit says:

    @specialed5000: Hey everyone. Give pees a chance! (Jebus, Yoko Ono’s gonna hunt me down for THAT one.)

  50. MissTic says:

    I *heart* TJ’s. I’m not worried about their prices because of the store philosophy. Good for them!!!

  51. uricmu says:

    Is lead an ingredient?

  52. deserthiker says:

    PEAS, people, P-E-A-S.

    Pees is what someone does in the restroom.

  53. Ah, yes. Because the false sense of security through xenophobia beats figuring out whether the food is actually safe in the first place…

    Will they ban American food next time there’s a Salmonella/Listeria/e-coli death?

  54. ELC says:

    I’m ALL for this. I wish other stores would get the hint!! Give me a choice and I’ll pay a little more from somewhere else – especially if it came from the good ‘ole U.S. of A.

  55. timsgm1418 says:

    good one@Trai_Dep:

  56. timsgm1418 says:

    @deserthiker: you can’t eat peas in a restroom?

  57. Ray says:

    Hey that’s the building I live in!