Widespread Whole Foods Market Salad Bar Fraud Leads to $800,000 Settlement

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If you've ever thought you overpaid for a Whole Foods Market salad in California, you're not alone. Southern California lawyers representing the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego reached an $800,000 agreement with Whole Foods Market—the nation’s leading organic and natural retail chain, with more than 70 locations in California—over fraudulent practices related to its salad and hot bar items.

According to the investigation, pricing violations in Whole Foods Markets were rampant across the state, officials noted. State and county Weights and Measures inspectors conducted the investigation and found several pricing issues including failing to deduct the weight of containers for foods purchased from the stores’ self-serve food bars. Other items that were packaged by Whole Foods employees and sold by the pound contained less than what Whole Foods Market advertised. As well, some items were sold by the piece that by law should have been sold by the pound.

“We’re taking action to assure consumers get what they pay for,” L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement. “No consumer should ever be overcharged by their local market. A consumer who walks into a Whole Foods store or any supermarket for that matter needs to know with confidence that they are getting what they paid for.”

In addition to the settlement, Whole Foods must also ensure the proper pricing is implemented at the store levels. Random audits will be conducted at every location, Weights and Measures said.

In a statement, Whole Foods Market said: “We cooperated with the city attorneys throughout the process, and based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports from various city and county inspectors throughout California, our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98 percent of the time.”

Whole Foods Market was recently targeted in a class action lawsuit over misuse of the phrase “all natural” to describe baked goods that contained artificial ingredients.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: VJ Beauchamp

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