Whole Foods Quietly Agrees To Drop Sewage Sludge Produce

By Heather Callaghan

In December 2012, whistleblower Mario Ciasulli, a semi-retired electrical engineer in North Carolina, put pressure on Whole Foods to come clean about a fertilizer method among their conventional produce suppliers.

That is, using sewage sludge, the “pink slime” of large produce farming. No joke – actual sewage. Whole Foods’ conventional produce is grown on soil layered with human waste as a fertilizer.

The stuff that’s flushed down sinks, drains and toilets? The water is removed from the resulting sludge, heated and sprayed. Yes, this includes pharmaceutical residues, chemicals, heavy metals, BPA, phthalates, resistant pathogens, PFCs, industrial solvents, flame retardants and other things that heat is insufficient to treat. Guess what else? There is a ton of evidence that these things “bioaccumulate” in the plants and organisms that eat them. It is doubtful that this practice is good for pollinators.

The company escaped scrutiny for a long time by referring to the waste as “bio-solids.” Here is the origin of that little PR spin.

Whole Foods’ customers expected better for the high prices. At the very least, to be safe from contamination, without having to take out another mortgage to buy nothing but certified organic. Watch Mario talk about it here.

Since Ciasulli dug further and demanded to know the conventional food origins, thousands of activists begged Whole Foods for some disclosure. His efforts were supported by the Center for Media and Democracy, who brought the wide-spread practice to light in the groundbreaking 1993 book,
Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry.

Recently, Whole Foods announced a new set of standards for fresh produce and flowers, but it conveniently left out anything referring to sewage sludge.

Instead, we know about this agreement from Whole Foods’ email communications to Ciasulli:

[p]rohibiting the use of biosolids will be part of our core requirements. All of our suppliers will be compliant with the core requirements by the time we roll out the program.

A follow-up email from Whole Foods explained:

This initial release was meant to be high-level. There are far too many nuances to include on a press release.

Some consumers are disillusioned by the revelation and want a more public confirmation, but no hard feelings from Ciasulli who says:

I am encouraged that Whole Foods has made the commitment to ban biosolids in their produce in 2014, and that the company will require supporting documentation from their suppliers. We expect Whole Foods to follow through in a real and meaningful way.

Whole Foods has been making an effort to get in touch more locally by offering fixed low-interest loans to local growing innovators, which has lifted their PR quotient quite a bit. After consumers started detecting GMO ingredients in Whole Foods’ stores, they decided to adopt mandatory labeling of their GM products, rolling out in 2018.

But if you want to really bypass the whole sewage, lack of transparency thing, go here:

20 Places to Find Local Food and Family Farms Near You

Image: PR Watch

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

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  • Anonymous

    It's almost worth knowing for the dent it puts in the smug factor.

  • Isn't that a bunch of crappola???

  • Anonymous

    Ya know, human waste has been used for eons and if the plants didn't find it beneficial, they'd die instead of thrive. Septic tanks used to be pumped and then used on corn field, wheat fields, etc. with no detrimental effect. People poop? Well…its far better than petro chemical fertilizers any day as are various animal dungs and worm castings.

    Seriously, people are so ignorant.

  • That might be true but wouldn't it be better to be open and explain these things to the public. It would save a potential scandal. That's all these people are asking for.

    But, I just don't believe the heat treatment will get rid of all the things in the sewage AND this whole thing was bred out of convenience and the EPA tacking on fees for waste disposal – NOT for our benefit…

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