I'll admit it. Even though I'm about as far from a China-phobe as you'll find anywhere, I still shopped at Trader Joe's after reading about their recent decision to stop Chinese single-ingredient products from hitting their shelves (e.g., the China-sourced Trader Joe's edamame sitting in my freezer). According to the above-linked AP wire dispatch, the decision appears entirely based on customer concerns over the safety of China-sourced products. The story notes that "garlic, frozen organic spinach and other 'single ingredient' food items from mainland China will be phased out by April 1, although products that include ingredients from both China and other sources will remain."
I suppose that Trader Joe's should be excused for this decision on some level -- and for maintaining face with their Chinese suppliers -- by noting that they continue to have confidence in the quality and safety of products from the region. In this regard, a Trader Joe's representative is quoted in the story as saying, "we will continue to source products from other regions until our customers feel as confident as we do about the quality and safety of Chinese products."
Still, I question whether or not this decision is the right one or not. But at least Trader Joe's is letting the buying habits of its customers speak rather than succumbing to non-market pressures for greatly reducing its trade with Chinese suppliers. Unfortunately, however, I'm guessing that this decision will result in similar ones from other US grocers and specialty food purveyors as well. And will we really be the better for it? I'm not sure. I still plan to open a bag of Trader Joes Chinese-origin edamame in the coming days without any sense of fear that what I'm consuming is any less safe than the genetically modified soybeans coming from domestic sources.
- Jason Busch