Don't Trust Whole Foods Natural Claims, or Anyone Else's

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Organic vinegar? Whole Foods thinks organic chemistry results from shade-grown, fair trade booze. Credit: Whole Foods.Organic vinegar? Whole Foods thinks organic chemistry results from shade-grown, fair trade booze. Credit: Whole Foods.

When a company selling a naturalistic fallacy has to claim the cleaning agent in a regular product, and the one in a Whole Foods version are different -- the Whole Foods version “is plant-based and not the same” -- you know science has left the discussion.

That is what Church & Dwight Co. recently did, when it claimed the sodium laureth sulfate in Arm & Hammer products is different than the sodium laureth sulfate they put in "Nature's Power" for Whole Foods.

Well, no, it isn't. Dr. Josh Bloom, Senior Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the American Council on Science and Health, cleared up why.

"There's a technical word for that. It's called lying," Dr. Bloom said. "How can they be different? Is it a different colored box? That stuff doesn't occur naturally anyplace. Whether you make the detergent from coconut oil or petroleum makes no difference, except in cost."

So "natural" mostly matters when you are trying to overcharge someone. No one who isn't an organic food believer and has seen the prices at the "faux-hippie Wal-Mart" called Whole Foods is shocked by the fact they are overcharging for obvious things.(1)

Just recently they have been under fire for wrapping peeled oranges in plastic (poor kids just don't peel the orange until they are ready to eat it) and selling really expensive asparagus water (what?) so selling detergent that is identical to lower-priced regular detergent is no great shock, but it's at least surprising anyone still falls for it.

The Federal Trade Commission doesn't allow companies to outright deceive consumers but "natural" is pretty broadly defined, because it isn't really defined. Whole Foods chemicals, or those in the supplements Joe Mercola and Mark Hyman are selling on their websites, are not inherently better, or even different, simply because they can also be derived from some natural source.

Organic food at least has a pretense of standards. Yes, the standards are picked by organic marketing lobbyists who have managed to keep the USDA from having any real control. But you at least know if you buy something organic, it is 95 percent organic, or has one of only 50 exempt synthetic ingredients, or only contains synthetic ingredients if no organic version is available, and the toxic pesticides involved are "plant-based" or ... okay, organic food doesn't sound all that great compared to normal-priced food either.

Even less reason to pay more for Tide Purgreen, when regular Tide is not hurting the environment, and for less money. But perhaps they should go ahead and name it Tide Wealthy Elite Self-Identification.


1. Though there are 5 Things You're Not Crazy For Buying At Whole Foods.