Whole Foods Market's continued efforts to shed its "whole paycheck" image have been dealt a setback by a recent study conducted by New York City's Department of Consumers Affairs (DCA), which claims the grocer's locations in the Big Apple are guilty of "systemic overcharging of its customers for prepackaged food."
The study, released earlier this week, tested 80 different prepackaged products in the grocer's nine New York stores, and found that all were labeled with incorrect weights. Some 89 percent of the products tested exceeded the federal standard for the maximum amount that a single package can "deviate from the actual weight," per the U.S. Department of Commerce.
According to DCA, the overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko, to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.
“It is unacceptable that New Yorkers shopping for a summer BBQ or who grab something to eat from the self-service aisles at New York City’s Whole Foods stores have a good chance of being overcharged,” said DCA Commissioner Julie Menin, noting that this investigation has yielded "the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers.
"As a large chain grocery store, Whole Foods has the money and resources to ensure greater accuracy and to correct what appears to be a widespread problem — the city’s shoppers deserve to be correctly charged," she said.
The DCA further pointed to what it calls a "systematic problem with how products packaged for sale at Whole Foods are weighed and labeled," in which individual packaged are weighed inaccurately or not weighed at all.
These cases were most prevalent for nuts and other snack products, berries, vegetables and seafood – packages that had been "labeled with exactly the same weight when it would be practically impossible for all of the packages to weigh the same amount," DCA noted.
At press time, Whole Foods did not respond to Progressive Grocer's request for comment on the matter.
Earlier this month, Whole Foods Market unveiled further details of its forthcoming value-focused small-store concept — 365 by Whole Foods Market — which is set to begin opening locations in 2016.