When one thinks of Trader Joe’s, there seems to be a general consensus that they are completely organic, healthier (than most) grocery store. However, with doing some research, it seems Trader Joe’s has been lying about their products being GMO free. This comes as a shock to many people, as they choose to shop and buy their food at Trader Joe’s specifically for that reason. In my research, I found that many people would seem to give Trader Joe’s an “A” as a company. Why wouldn’t they? They sell high quality foods at a more affordable price, have a fun environment where the employees wear Hawaiian shirts, are not seen as a health store, but a healthier store, yet with delicious house-brand products (their oreos are very tasty) . 

In one article from the Atlantic, “Teach us, Trader Joe: Demanding Socially Responsible Food”, it describes Trader Joes as “one of the most innovative grocery stores around” and praising it on going completely sustainable, removing all of their red-listed items from the shelves, and also all GMO’s. Ironically, there is a whole article on Trader Joe’s GMO policy, and whether we should trust is.

Trader Joe’s states “Our approach to Genetically Modified Organisms is simple: we do not allow GMO ingredients in our private label products (anything with Trader Joe’s, Trader Jose’s, Trader Ming’s, etc. on the label).”

The article points out that when we read this, why would there be any reason to question this statement? However, what is interesting is that Trader Joe’s doesn’t even have the Non-GMO Project or the USDA certify their “GMO” products. These two organizations require third party testing before stating a product can be deemed free of GMOs. Rather, Trader Joe’s uses an unknown third part that won’t disclose, stating that they also don’t allow their GMO products to be audited because of the additional cost. To me, these two things are big red flags. If they actually did not allow genetically modified organisms in their products, they would proudly show the world the evidence to prove it true.

In reality, Trader Joe’s is hiding a lot. From the outside, we see organic natural foods and brands being sold. However, they don’t want to share who their suppliers actually are. “For example, Stoneyfield supplies yogurt for Trader Joe’s and Stacey’s (owned by Pepsi) supplies their pita chips.”(FoodBabe) This is somewhat ironic, because Pepsi is a company who has been under fire for their products that claim to be GMO free, but aren’t, like their Honest Teas and Naked Juices. In the same article on Foodbabe.com, the author shows pictures of the brands sold there, highlighting their ingredients to contain things like corn oil, or soybean oil. When we see these ingredients, it seems somewhat natural so we let it slide. However, Trader Joe’s is using that to get by as “GMO” free.

Therefore, when asking the question, is Trader Joe’s an ethical company? From the surface, they would appear to be. They claim to be GMO free, and sustainable by carrying “green products”, all at an affordable price. However, with digging a little deeper, they are pushing things under the rug. The fact that one of their largest claims of being GMO free has been proven false, with no effort from their side to counter, highlights the unethical practices of this company.

To me, this mainly shows how our perceptions can be completely altered from what a company or brand wants us to believe. As consumers of these brands, which are in reality not ethical, we have been the ones projecting their positive image on them, as it is a reason why we are attracted to them to begin with. Nevertheless, it is unsettling to realize these companies we associate as ethical are no what they claim to be. Especially one’s like Trader Joe’s, a company many people go there with pride to buy their organic and GMO free foods.



  1. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/08/teach-us-trader-joe-demanding-socially-responsible-food/260786/
  2. http://foodbabe.com/2013/08/07/what-is-trader-joes-hiding/