Whole Foods has become the go-to destination for health-conscious grocery shopping over the years. With a vast assortment of organic and all-natural products, many shoppers are willing to shell out more money at this high-end grocer instead of going for lower prices at Walmart or Kroger. But some of those customers might be dismayed on their next trip to Whole Foods, as the popular grocer will no longer be allowing them to buy one thing in stores. Read on to find out which item Whole Foods is removing from shelves at all locations.
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Whole Foods has had to remove products from stores in the past.
Whole Foods is known for its consistency, but the grocery chain has pulled different products from stores before, mostly as the result of recalls.
Back in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a voluntary recall on Whole Foods' Market Red Lentil Dal for potential Listeria contamination. Then in August, the agency also revealed that the grocer's 365 Organic Creamy Caesar Dressing had been pulled from stores in 26 states due to undeclared allergens.
And in September, Whole Foods found itself among the more than a dozen big-name grocery chains facing a major cheese recall. According to the FDA, 20 different brands of Brie and Camembert cheeses had to be removed from Whole Foods stores nationwide after at least six people developed listeriosis, a serious infection caused by Listeria contamination.
Now, Whole Foods is pulling another product from its stores—and this time, it's not because of a recall.
The grocer is no longer allowing shoppers to buy something else.
Whole Foods announced on Nov. 21 that it will stop selling lobster from Maine at all of its stores nationwide, the Portland Press Herald reported. (There are roughly 500 Whole Foods locations in the U.S.) According to the Maine-based newspaper, this decision comes after the Gulf of Maine fishery recently lost two certifications for environmental sustainability.
On Nov. 16, the London-based fishing watchdog Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) announced it was suspending the fishery's certification of sustainability due to its violations against laws protecting right whales, per the Portland Press Herald. That suspension will go into effect Dec. 15.
Prior to this, the Gulf of Maine fishery was added to a "red list" of seafood to be avoided in September. Seafood Watch, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sustainable seafood advocacy group, said that the state's lobster is harvested in ways that are likely to harm wildlife—in particular, the North Atlantic right whale.
Whole Foods said this lobster could return to stores in the future.
This isn't necessarily a permanent removal. Whole Foods said it will continue to sell Maine lobster that was purchased before the suspension or red listing, the Portland Press Herald reported. But once that's all sold out, there will be none left in stores unless certain factors change.
According to the newspaper, Whole Foods said it will stop buying lobster from the Gulf of Maine until the MSC suspension is lifted or until Seafood Watch changes its rating of the fishery from red to green or yellow.
"As part of our commitment to responsible sourcing, we only sell wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or rated either 'Green' or 'Yellow' by the MBA Seafood Watch program," a Whole Foods Market spokesperson said in a statement to the Portland Press Herald. "These third-party verifications and ratings are critical to maintaining the integrity of our standards for all wild-caught seafood found in our seafood department … We are closely monitoring this situation and are committed to working with suppliers, fisheries, and environmental advocacy groups as it develops."
Some people are speaking out against the decision.
North Atlantic right whales have been critically endangered for some time now, and in Oct. 2022, The Washington Post reported that scientists believe there are only roughly 340 of these whales still alive. One of the leading causes of injury and death for this species is entanglement in fishing gear, which prompted the new regulations that the Gulf of Maine fishery has been accused of violating to be put in place earlier this year.
For their part, Maine lobstermen have been contesting these new rules. According to the Portland Press Herald, lobsterman have maintained that they are not seeing right whales in the Gulf of Maine. At the same time, no right whale deaths have been linked to the state's lobster fishery, and the last reported entanglement was in 2004.
"The MSC certification was suspended due to flaws with the National Marine Fisheries Service regulatory plan, so there is nothing that the fishermen themselves can do to rectify the problem," Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative told the newspaper, adding that she was disappointed with Whole Foods decision to no longer carry Maine lobster.