A Whole Foods problem is ‘a pattern,’ the FDA says in an unprecedented warning letter


Macaroni & Cheese. Vodka sauce. Green Chile Chicken Tamales. These were just three of the foods recalled by Whole Foods Market for undeclared allergens not revealed on the packaging.

And the FDA is tired of the mistakes that can make people with food allergies sick.

The FDA posted a warning letter Tuesday sent to Whole Foods “for a pattern of receiving and offering for sale misbranded food products necessitating a series of food recalls for allergens.”

Just to make sure nobody thought this was a typical warning letter, the FDA stated: “This is the first time the FDA has warned a retailer for engaging in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale misbranded food products containing undeclared allergens.”

A statement from a Whole Foods spokesman emailed to the Miami Herald Tuesday afternoon said, “Whole Foods Market takes food safety very seriously. We are working closely with the FDA to ensure all practices and procedures in our stores meet if not exceed food safety requirements. We remain committed to maintaining the highest quality standards in the industry.”

Which supermarket is open Christmas Day? (It’s not Publix) What about garbage? Buses?

Food allergy recalls are the most common Class 1 recalls, those made to avoid the most serious possible consequences. Depending on the person, food allergy reactions can go from mild to deadly with terrifying swiftness. In 2018, Weston teenager Alexi Stafford accidentally ate a Chips Ahoy cookie with peanut butter. She died 90 minutes later.

This is why ingredient labels list common allergens separate, usually immediately beneath the other ingredients. The major food allergens noted include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy.

Not only has Whole Foods had to yank 32 food products, by the FDA’s count, in the last year for undeclared allergens, but the agency saw the same thing when it looked at other years.

“These products included a variety of foods sold under the Whole Foods brand primarily in the deli and bakery sections of the store,” the FDA said.

The actual letter, dated last Wednesday, listed five different recalls since November 2019 for which Whole Foods blamed mistakes by suppliers, store employees and their internal labeling system, among other elements.

The FDA followed that with a boiler-plate closing for a warning letter, which states Whole Foods has 15 working days to respond in writing with exactly what it’s doing to cut down on this happening.

“Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in enforcement action by FDA without further notice, including seizure and/or injunction.”



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