This story is a bit over 2 1/2 years old and time for a detailed, unbiased, follow-up!WJLA SCRIPT-
TONIGHT - AN I-TEAM INVESTIGATION. WHAT DO YOU KNOW KNOW ABOUT ORGANIC FOODS? IT'S PESTICIDE FREE AND MORE EXPENSIVE...BUT IT'S WORTH IT... RIGHT? NOT NECESSARILY. WOULD YOU BELIEVE *ORGANICALLY GROWN* IN CHINA? HOW ORGANIC CAN THAT BE? THE I-Team's ROBERTA BASKIN HAS BEEN INVESTIGATING AND HAS QUESTIONS FOR ONE MAJOR FOOD CHAIN.
ROBERTA IN STUDIO:
WHOLE FOODS… IT'S THE LEADING FOOD RETAILER SELLING THE IMAGE THAT LOCAL AND ORGANIC IS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND BETTER FOR YOU. BUT IS THAT …IN FACT…WHAT THE CUSTOMER IS GETTING?
WITH 175 STORES… WHOLE FOODS IS THE UNDISPUTED LEADER IN ORGANIC FOODS AND PROMOTES "LOCALLY GROWN." BUT THE I-TEAM HAS FOUND THAT MUCH OF WHOLE FOODS ORGANICS… ARE IMPORTED FROM CHINA.
Shopper: “Honestly I never would have flipped it over to see that it was from China.”
SPINACH…. SUGAR SNAP PEAS… AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE CALIFORNIA BLEND VEGETABLES? ALL LISTED UNDER THE WHOLE FOODS BRAND "365 ORGANIC." AND ON THE BACK IN SMALL PRINT… PRODUCT OF CHINA.
ORGANIC ENSURES NO CHEMICAL PESTICIDES AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CONDITIONS. BUT HOW DO WE EVEN KNOW THE FOOD IS ORGANIC? FOODS SOLD IN THIS COUNTRY MUST BE APPROVED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE BEFORE THEY CAN DISPLAY THE ORGANIC LABEL.
"The oversight that they have in China is not the same kind of supervision that we have in the United States."
BUT THE USDA DOESN'T INSPECT IMPORTED FOODS. IT CERTIFIES PRIVATE INSPECTORS TO DO THE JOB. WHOLE FOODS EMPLOYS A COMPANY CALLED QUALITY ASSURANCE INTERNATIONAL. BUT THE COMPANY CONFIRMS "QAI HAS NOT CERTIFIED ANY PRODUCTS IN CHINA." THEY RELY ON ANOTHER CERTIFIER ON THE FARM. YET THERE'S THE QAI CERTIFICATION SEAL… THE USDA SEAL…. AND PRODUCT OF CHINA…ALL ON THE SAME WHOLE FOODS PACKAGE.
Linda Greer: "So you have to ask yourself the question, how would they ever know if the organic rules are being followed?"
LINDA GREER IS A SENIOR SCIENTIST AT THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY GROUP. SHE'S BEEN TO FARMS IN CHINA.
Linda Greer: "I wouldn’t buy something organic from China with the idea that it’s truly organic."
BASKIN: "Why not?"
LG: "The reason is we’ve had such a difficult time tracking things."
THERE'S GROWING CONCERN ABOUT THE QUALITY OF FOOD FROM CHINA. ALREADY THIS YEAR THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION WHICH CHECKS FOR FOOD SAFETY STOPPED 260 SHIPMENTS OF FOODS LIKE STRAWBERRIES CONTAMINATED WITH BAD PESTICIDES, BACTERIA OR FILTH.
Linda Greer: "I think it’s probably not an accident that product of China is in such small type."
THE I-TEAM OBTAINED THIS INTERNAL COMPANY DOCUMENT FROM WHOLE FOODS LISTING THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN FOR HUNDREDS OF ITS PRODUCTS…DOZENS OF ORGANICS….MANY FROM CHINA…EVERYTHING FROM ASPARAGUS SPEARS TO PINE NUTS TO CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER. WHOLE FOODS WOULDN'T ALLOW OUR CAMERAS IN ITS STORE, SO WE BOUGHT THE PRODUCTS AND STEPPED OUTSIDE TO SHOW SHOPPERS.
Mom: "It's definitely misleading. If they were proud of it being from China, they would be, it would be prominently displayed on the front. I’m sure."
SHOPPERS WE TALKED TO WERE MOST SURPRISED BY WHOLE FOODS ORGANIC CALIFORNIA BLEND OF CAULIFLOWER, CARROTS, AND BROCCOLI.
"If they're going to put into bold "California" on the label, they shouldn't put China in fine print on the back."
WE ALSO WENT TO THE FRESHFARM MARKETS AT DUPONT CIRCLE… WHERE PEOPLE TAKE THEIR ORGANIC FOOD VERY SERIOUSLY.
Zachariah "Oh, but it’s from China, what a travesty."
"Product of China! Whoa, look at that!"