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An article to make you stop and think...

Here's one to at least make you think long and hard -- this is not a discussion about Whole Food's 78 unacceptable ingredients, but rather a pretty big attention draw to how much of what is sold as food has so much stuff in it...


Definitely an article to think about what you buy and what you put on the table.

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  1. True. I only shop for certain items at WF and I've never shopped at WalMart but how can the two shopping experiences even be compared?

    6 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Oh, I agree...but what caught my attention was that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of the items at WalMart would be banned from WF.

      Just kind of mindboggling...we eat pretty clean, and most of the stuff on the slider photo is stuff I wouldn't ever buy anyway...but it's a little scary.

      1. re: HillJ

        I spent a month a few years ago working in middle-of-nowhere Florida where the closest/only? food shopping option was a super walmart. It was summertime and I did pretty well in their produce section, whole grain crackers, cheese, etc. You don't have to buy the "stuff packed" junkier foods just as you don't have to buy the "acceptable ingredient" packed processed foods at WF. At home, I never shop at Walmart so I am certainly not promoting them as a healthy food mecca but there is some decent food available if you are looking for it and can ignore the junky loss leaders.

        As you say, Walmart and WF are totally different shopping experiences!

        1. re: HillJ

          Gotta agree, it's apples and oranges to try and compare the two.

          1. re: mike0989

            I didn't for even a second think that the article was comparing the shopping experience at the two stores -- or the two stores themselves...

            .. My impression is that it was calling attention to how much of the shelves at WM would be empty if they had the same standards as WF.

            I gave WM a try when they started talking about how they were buying more local produce, etc., etc., etc. -- and the variety DID improve, and the produce does look better. Unfortunately, it seems to turn to slime within 48 hours of when I put it into my fridge...not so with the produce I buy anywhere else (and there's not a WF within an hour in any direction...so it's not that I'm buying anything there)

            1. re: sunshine842

              The shelves would be empty and they'd out of business. WM target customer either can't afford to shop at WF, or can't justify the added expense. I don't shop at WM, nor am I fan of them. At the same time, I usually don't go to WF unless it's for something I can't get elsewhere. They charge too much for too many items to justify it. I'm also not that concerned about items on their banned list that it makes a difference to me to have to go there.

          2. re: HillJ

            I've been to both, with no apologies. I like WF better, but their prices are often prohibitive. WM has a surprising (to me) variety and if you like to shop multiple groceries like I do, you can't really pit one against the other.
            So sue me.

          3. Interesting, although I think anyone who cares about not ingesting these "unacceptable ingredients" has already adjusted their purchasing behavior. Also, I can't shake the nagging feeling that a WF publicist wrote the piece.

            5 Replies
            1. re: tcamp

              and most of the stuff that "disappears" off of the shelf in the slider-type graphic is stuff that I don't buy.

              It was striking, however, to see the sheer volume of foods that has one questionable ingredient or another.

              And let's be realistic -- the same thing could be said of the offering at *any* large mass-market food purveyor -- be it Super Target, Kroger, Publix, etc., etc.,e tc....the national brands are the national brands.

              The sobering thing is HOW MANY of those national brands have questionable ingredients in them (and not so much focused on where it's being sold)

              1. re: sunshine842

                I read an article somewhere (I don't recall the specifics) that was talking about how for the first time in history, our children will not be as healthy as their parents (throughout their lives) in the US. I think it is sad.

                Of course, it is not all about just the food we eat, but nutritional disorders are a huge factor in health and general wellness. Living a very long...but sick.. life....is not an improvement to me.

                I find the whole thing disturbing.

                1. re: sedimental

                  I'd be interested in reading that story, sedimental, if you can find again.


                    1. re: enbell

                      That's the kind of article that came to mind with sedimental's post. The focus is on childhood obesity. And the data is not just from the USA. One background study is from Australia.

                      But the link between this trend and the current WF v WM topic is tenuous. If WF kids are, on average, less obese, it probably has more to do with greater access to recreational activities than the absence of the dirty 78 chemicals. A mom who has to work late hours as a cashier can't afford to take the kids to ballet classes.

                      A UK approach to childhood obesity - keep the chip shops away from schools

            2. The cover photos for that article say a lot about its slant. The WF one shows the produce section with neat piles of red and yellow bell peppers (is that $1.99 each or per pound?). The Walmart one shows the end of the freezer section, probably from the cash register area.

              Walmart has produce near the entrance just like WF and most other groceries. What does WF have near the cash registers? At my local one it is the cosmetics section, with all kinds of homeopathic healing remedies.

              I'm not a big fan of either. I stop by Walmart once a year to get a big can of Nido whole dried milk. WF is closer, kitty corner from Barnes&Noble. I stop by once in a while to see if they have any good bulk grains bargains, and to snitch a sample of cheese or sausage. And once or twice I've bought frozen kale. Everything else is too expensive.

              1 Reply
              1. re: paulj

                I do miss the WF cheese selection.

              2. The millions of people that suffer in Americas food deserts would kill for a superwalmart nearby.

                20 Replies
                1. re: C. Hamster

                  with a significant part of the problem being that many of those suffering in food deserts **only have access to the crap that has questionable ingredients in it**

                  The thing that struck me about the article was not grocery store comparisons, or first-world problems, or shopping experience --

                  It was the fact that damned near 50% of the ingredients commonly available in any American food outlet -- urban or rural, high-end or low-end, contain ingredients that are questionable/controversial enough from a health standpoint that a company the size of Whole Foods actually bans them from their offering.

                  Am I the only one who finds that more than a little disturbing?

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    No. You are not the only one. I think it is disturbing and disgusting.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Thank you! I was beginning to think I was the only one who saw it that way!

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        and 12 hours later, I'm pretty sure that it's just you and me, kiddo.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Well, I suppose that is why the polls say most obese Americans don't think they are "that fat". Most are on a handful of pills that good diet and fitness would eliminate the need for, store shelves are filled with OTC pills for heartburn, acid reflux, gas, constipation, diarrhea and "sour stomach". Big money is to be made in the area of treatments metabolic disorders.

                          Your doctor will give you meds for type 2 diabetes, a recommendation for a C pap machine and a handful of statins as the first line of treatment because they know you won't follow through...they know you will continue to eat the standard American diet, despite them giving you a new, serious, preventable diagnosis.

                          But we don't have a problem with most of the food on the shelves of a grocery store. It's safe. All USDA approved, an acceptable level of PPB's, "heart healthy"..." sugar free"..."natural flavors". Yay. No problems here.

                          Rant over :)

                            1. re: sedimental

                              Chow item from 2 yrs about WF 'wellness clubs'.
                              "But what about the fact that most of the company's money comes from sales of meat, wine, fancy cheeses, frozen foods, and other high-ticket items not encouraged at the Wellness Clubs?"

                              It would be interesting to see ifthere's much difference in the food purchasing habits of WF customers, compared to others in similar economic brackets.

                              1. re: paulj

                                I don't see a single mention of the Wellness Club in 2013 or 2014 -- only a few random mentions in 2011/2012...is it still in operation?

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Now that WF has banned those 78 dangerous chemicals, you can buy anything in the store and be healthy. :)

                                  At my local WF shopping the perimeter means buying a few vegetables and fruits, splurge on some cheese, seafood and steaks. Then there's the '*no nitrates added' bacon and ham, yogurt (in a dozen healthy flavors). Finish off with a slice of hot pizza, and some GF cupcakes.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    Nobody even came close to stating that. Nobody.

                                    You can die from drinking too much water -- even if it's distilled from the collected tears of unicorns.

                                    This wasn't a conversation about excess or lack thereof...other than the pretty evident overabundance of questionable chemicals in the mass-market food supply.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I shop at an Asian food mart, a Mexican market and an Eastern European market. The parameters have the fresh limited processed food, the guts (inside isles) have some crap too. Although this issue is not limited to national American chain stores, the differences are really apparent.

                                      The "ethnic" stores where I shop, have a HUGE perimeter compared to the other stores. The guts in the ethnic stores also have a larger section of simple unprocessed foods (like shelves of a wide variety of lentils and beans) compared to the guts of a national chain store filled with mostly convenience products and massive selections of the same type of food (like shelves and shelves of crackers and cookies).
                                      Speaks volumes about the different food cultures. It is interesting to compare them. There is no doubt that the ethnic stores expect that their shoppers can and will ...cook!

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        Sedimental, you nailed it. And the article made me angry and sad, like Sunshine.

                                        I've located the Indian, Mexican, Asian, African, Carribean, Middle eastern stores around me - and a german meat market and thats where I spend the $$.

                                        Locally owned natural food store gets my $$ over WF. Local Bi-Lo and Trader Joe are close by and I'll use them but not for bulk of my shopping. The 'ethnic' markets are locally owned by great people who know the items and constantly advise me on what to do. example:

                                        Dried shitakes?? One lb is less than $7 at an Asian store, but nearly $15-20 @ WF, Earthfare etc.

                                        I know I'm fortunate. I know how to cook and have access to all the ingredients.People in rural/food deserts in the region are in a tough spot and i've got nothing but sympathy and support for them. I can't afford to shop @ WF ( just a few blocks away) and going there makes me sad, cranky and discouraged.

                                        1. re: kariin

                                          I am fortunate to live in an area where several Asian markets are within a 5 minute subway ride. (WF stores are all off my beaten path in Manhattan...and aside from produce and some meat, WF doesn't impress me...horrible seafood.) While my Asian markets don't sell organic produce, and their frozen seafood is mostly from China, their fresh produce and seafood is incredible and inexpensive. Frequently I can buy live scallops in the shell, just arrived...for $2.50/lb...how else can I get that great roe? Last week they had live abalone. The inner aisles are mostly Asian products...usually don't go through them unless I need sauces or Thai curry pastes. I would never bother with a special trip to WF, when Asian markets are so accessible to me. I also have a Russian market, but it doesn't impress me much unless I want smoked fish...which gives me a headache. Oh...and I've never set foot in a Walmart or Target in my life.

                                          1. re: EricMM

                                            Russian markets are often good for fresh cheeses and dairy (esp. Sour cream and butter). I buy those things -also sausage, bread and teas there. Lots of pickled products are good there too.
                                            I stay away from the smoked fish, wines and sugary products. Not to my taste.

                                            1. re: sedimental

                                              I've gotten good butter, but I don't really eat cheese, except for vulgarian stuff that would shame me on this board. I do like some of the smoked sausages, but I'm just as well staying away from them. Interestingly enough, no fresh fish...only smoked and cooked.

                                        2. re: sedimental

                                          I've never thought of it that way but you are right More perimeter, less guts at the Korean mega super market I frequent. Plus, better prices.

                                          1. re: tcamp

                                            The perimeter at HMart is:
                                            produce (very nice selection)
                                            meats (plenty of guts here :) )
                                            (facing meats - cooler section with eggs, sausages, udon and other noodles)
                                            fish (fresh, plus salted and dried)
                                            bulk rice, etc.

                                            Perimeter at 99Ranch

                                            bulk ramen and rice sales
                                            fish (including fish cakes)
                                            (soysauce specials facing fish counter)
                                            frozen (ice cream, vegetables, coconut etc)
                                            more dry noodles on sale

                                            HMart has a small section of organic produce. Koreans also appear to be experimenting with multi-grain rice mixtures and alternatives. Other than that there isn't much in common between WF and these markets.

                                    2. re: paulj

                                      I have no idea. I don't shop at WF, but I sometimes shop at a WF similar store. I buy fancy things there too.

                                      I think that the advice given to Americans, to shop the perimeter at any grocery store, is solid advice. It is just so darn unfortunate that this means that the entire "guts" of the inside of the store is filled with foods, affordable foods, mainstream foods, that when eaten on a daily basis, can cause serious illness.

                                      That is sad commentary on our food culture.

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    No, sunshine, I'm on the same page - I only just saw this thread a bit ago - !

                                  3. re: sunshine842

                                    It's a head scratcher, adding HFCS to fish and to fruit... gaahh.

                            2. That article doesn't require much thought at all. I never shop at Wal-Mart and almost never at Whole Foods (and then only for a few things). I don't let Whole Foods decide for me what are acceptable ingredients in my food.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: GH1618

                                but the foods that are carried at WalMart are the same foods that are carried in most retail food outlets across the USA.

                                Everybody's getting all hung up on the brand names...and for the most part not seeing what to me was the most disturbing part of the piece....at how many fucking chemicals are in every damned package sitting on the shelf.

                                The list of 78 items isn't entirely or decisively things that are dangerous (foie gras is one that, regardless of whatever argument exists, is not inherently harmful to consume)

                                But most of those items on the Whole Food's list of 78 are chemicals about which significant clinical concerns have been raised...things that cause undesirable physical side effects.

                                And those items are present in somewhere in the neighborhood of HALF of the products available for consumption at the retail level in the United States.

                                As above -- I don't shop at Whole Foods. But I try to feed my family as cleanly as possible, and it makes me twitchy that half of the ingredients available in any local grocery store contain ingredients that are clinically suspect.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  " this is not a discussion about Whole Food's 78 unacceptable ingredients"

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I don't agree that half of the ingredients in the products of a typical grocery store are "clinically suspect" (whatever that means). Whole Foods is in the business of making a profit selling products to people who distrust the products found in other grocery stores, and they are quite successful at it. It is in their financial interest to exaggerate or misrepresent the dangers of various ingredients. This is no different in principle from the financial motivation of food producers who use various additives or processes to make their products more attractive to other consumers, hence more profitable.

                                    It is best to let regulatory bodies determine what is safe and what is not, in my opinion. For the most part, they do a good job of it and we have a reasonably safe food supply as a result. Consumers can add to that by making intelligent choices whether they shop at mainstream grocery stores or elsewhere.

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      Clinically suspect -- there are legitimate studies on most of the 78 ingredients linking them to deleterious health effects in humans.

                                      Yes, it is absolutely our job as consumers to read the list and decide which of the 78 ingredients we want to be fussed with, and which ones we're not going to be too stirred up over.

                                      But the article was a pretty big highlight of how enormous the number of products on an average supermarket shelf contain artificial SOMETHING.

                                      There just aren't that many people who read labels or give a damn what they're putting in their body -- and when you're talking a serious double-digit percentage of the total prepackaged food supply, you're talking a lot of people who are just blindly and complacently assuming that all of those bright colors are put there because somebody gives a shit about their health. (but they don't, do they?)

                                      1. re: GH1618

                                        Well, we can't confuse "safe" with healthful.
                                        Safety also depends upon quantity and cumulative consequences

                                        A tuna sandwich seems pretty safe, unless you are pregnant and eat one daily. Now there are warnings on that.
                                        Your doctor will tell you not to do that. So, arguing about tuna being "safe" ( meaning it won't cause harm) is not reliably true nor does it assist to intelligently inform people that are trying to figure out what to eat every day.

                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          It wasn't "half the ingredients" it was 54% of the food products in Walmart.

                                          Our regulatory bodies have failed to safeguard the food supply and dietary reccos, miserably so.

                                    2. With so many options and varieties, I am sure one can get out of Walmart with healthier food as you would at wholefood. You just gotta read the labels but most people who can afford to shop at wholefood are too busy for that. I once went to Walmart but I never went back because it was somewhat depressing but I do often go to target and love some of gourmet food options they offer.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Monica

                                        I'm sure it would be banned from whole paycheck but many of Target's store brands chips, nuts, etc totally rock.

                                        1. re: Monica

                                          LOL I read the labels, even at Whole Foods, and I'm hardly a health nut. I just don't like additives in my dairy products, prefer non homogenized milk and refuse to pay more for something in a bigger can that is just tomato paste and water. I can dilute tomato paste myself.

                                          1. re: rasputina

                                            I'm kind of bummed that WF hasn't supplied more tomato products in glass instead of BPA lined cans, actually. And their grass fed dairy comes in plastic, not glass.

                                          2. re: Monica

                                            When I read the ingredients at Target, I gave up on buying anything there except Smucker's organic PB in glass jars.

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              I buy organic food from Target like organic milk, amazing pasta by Archer's farm, organic snacks for my daughter's school, organic cheeses, ice cream, organic boxed mac and cheese, etc. but i only go to Target when I need to pick up diapers and drug store items so I don't often shop there for food. I find shopping experience at WF very hectic and stressful.

                                              1. re: Monica

                                                My WF isn't stressful or jam packed, and I try to avoid high traffic days, so that helps.

                                                I don't buy certain organic brands/foods, nor do I buy snack foods, mac and cheese, pasta, juices, etc... so those aren't things I'd be examining.

                                                But stuff like Horizon Organic, or agave nectar as a sweetener may be organic, but not coming home with me.
                                                I wish they had more that I like, because they're so wide open and easy to shop where I am, display wise.

                                          3. Funny, I just shopped at Walmart today. I personally hate going in that store but it's the only place locally that I know of where I can get King Arthur unbleached bread flour and cake flours and Contadina crushed tomatoes. Six months ago we moved and now I'm 5 hours from the nearest Whole Foods. I have Sprouts but their bulk bin section is pathetically limited and it's another 20 minutes further away.

                                            I don't buy a ton of prepared stuff anyway. I had no problems finding the red onion, cucumber, avocado, romaine lettuce, cilantro and scallions I needed at Walmart. I do most of my shopping at Costco but I don't need those produce items in bulk.

                                            If you mostly cook from scratch ( hey I eat pop tarts, chips and soda on occasion too), you can buy real food even at Walmart. No one is forcing anyone to buy the sweetened yogurt instead of plain or the hot pockets instead of a roast and bread.

                                            1. The actual food on that list has a very low percentage of additives. Avoid the candy, pop and processed meats and most foods come in at a few percent with "unacceptable" additives.

                                              Whole Foods is no saint. $12 for an organic caesar salad that's been trucked to Toronto all the way from California is not sustainable.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: hal2010

                                                or all that tasty, I'd wager. Ugh.

                                              2. One thing always occurs to me when reading about this type of topic - it's regarding the term "reading the label".

                                                There are TWO parts to reading a label - the traditional media speak pretty much exclusively about the nutritional label, with its numbers regarding things like fat and sodium.

                                                The other part is the list of ingredients. This is the area that I usually concentrate more of my attention on.

                                                1. sandylc is right - ya have to read the label anywhere. I did a temp stint at Wallyworld last year stocking shelves (actually sort of enjoyed it, I started talking to the product as I 'faced' it in the accent of an Eastern European Babushka "vat is chocolate cover pretzel? I do not know from this")

                                                  BUT! the products were pretty much the same as any supermarket. I can't comment on the meats, they are regulated and monitored closely out of Bentonville.

                                                  I live at the moment in a rural area and the only other choice is a local grocer who, while has fewer choices, the produce is usually better and cheaper. so it's a pick'em.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    " I can't comment on the meats, they are regulated and monitored closely out of Bentonville."

                                                    *** and that's kinda scary. I've tried WM meats -- I refuse to buy the ones "plumped" with up to 15% brine (really, I can manage brining on my own, ta) -- and when you manage to finally winnow out the packages of meat that *aren't* cut with water, I've yet to find a decent package of meat. Tough, no flavor -- yecch. If I have nothing in the fridge or freezer and have no meat in either, we'll eat a vegetarian meal before I'll buy meat at WM. (admittedly partially because I'm spoiled rotten by a real butcher in an independent shop)

                                                    But yeah....you saw my point -- I think the Slate article was picking WalMart as a scapegoat, because they're an easy scapegoat...but yes, the food at WalMart is the same as at any other national grocery chain.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      I wouldn't touch their fresh meat either unless I was going for something like a pack of cheap bacon. it was weird one AM, when our supervisor had us furiously rearranging the meat case after the remodel crew had left the packs blocking the vents because "it will affect the thermostats and Bentonville will see..." doubleplusungood.

                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                        oh, criminy. That's downright scary.

                                                        as much as I don't like corporate control of things like the A/C (hey, corporate types -- turning on the furnace is great when the corporate headquarters is in the dead of winter -- not so great when you flip the heat on in your Florida stores when it's 85F.....stoopid.)

                                                        I do see the wisdom of having centralized (or just remote) monitoring of things like coolers and freezers.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          it was very big brother. Bentonville monitored the cameras and when the managers unlocked the loading dock and trash chutes, and yes, they also controlled the room temperature at a distance.

                                                          I gotta say it's all a formula they've made work very well (but please don't get me started on civic planning and what happened to small towns in the 80's due to them)

                                                          yet their recycling program is excellent.

                                                  2. total tangent to the "topic"

                                                    But that article had 2 of the coolest interactive data presentations I've seen in a long time for this type of article. I love how that chart dynamically changed and the shelf image swipe was very clever!

                                                    1. Wow, no foie gras or corned beef at Whole foods....and eggs have artificial flavor? How do they do that?