Whole Foods and free speech

Been wondering recently why you can’t get The Ecologist in the Whole Foods shops in London? (These include the former Fresh & Wild stores.)

The reason is apparently that the magazine printed a feature a few issues back which was not entirely laudatory, stating among other things that the chain does not recognise unions. (In the UK, they have to recognise if there is enough support from the staff for the union.) There were a couple of letters in the current issue, one of them from an un-named current employee, who said that the “offending” issue had been removed from the stores, as was any member of staff who had to take time off for family reasons or who “exercised their freedom of speech”. It also notes that the store throws out a huge quantity of food (perhaps inevitable with their huge buffets) and that a third of marriages between staff fail.

So, all that glitters isn’t gold. Actually, I’ve become adept at identifying which foods are good value to buy from WFM and which are not - you may well be able to get some of their products cheaper at your local health food shop (Food for Thought in Kingston is one example) or in Sainsbury’s - and keep in mind that WFM isn’t a little health food shop but a huge multinational chain, so don’t feel guilty. One would have thought that a company with their economies of scale could compete on price with a local organic chain or a company with two small shops in Surrey, but no.

Actually, while on the subject of organics, I noticed that the Natural Cafe, a chain of organic cafes which sprung up in London recently, suddenly went bust a month ago, having only been in business for a few months. Their outlet in Kingston has turned into a Caffe Torelli, an Italian chain owned by the Costa family (and most of the staff really are Italian). I can’t think why that business lasted such a short time, but they cut out a lot of potential customers by serving meat. Some people would go to a vegetarian cafe not only because they like the healthy options but because they won’t eat meat, for religious reasons among other things (I quite often see Muslims in Planet Organic in London, for instance). It would have been an ideal venue for my family’s Saturday outings to Kingston, since we have one person with religious issues and one with various food and chemical intolerance issues, but it wasn’t to be.

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  • Have the prices at you WFM gone up for certain things like eggs, milk, butter, etc. there too?