Whole Foods Water with Arsenic?

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Whole Foods and Arsenic Tainted Water
Whole Foods and Arsenic Tainted Water

Whole Foods, I like shopping there because I don’t need to worry about the quality of the food and they seem to care about the environment, their workers and their customers. At least this is what I used to think, now I’m not so sure.

Early last week I read an article in the New York Times about arsenic in Whole Food’s bottled water.  According to Consumer Reports and the New York Times, “Starkey Water, which is owned by Whole Foods, contained arsenic levels that met federal standards but exceeded levels (that Consumer Reports) deemed safe. Consumer Reports said the levels were eight parts per billion.”

My first thought was “Arsenic in the water at Whole Foods, yikes, did I drink any of that?” “Yikes” isn’t exactly what I thought but the answer is, uh, yes I did.

Starkey Water with Arsenic on the shelves at Whole Foods.
Starkey Water containing Arsenic on the shelves at Whole Foods.

According to the FDA, 10 parts per billion is unsafe, but they also add the frequency of exposure is a major consideration. So eight parts per billion in one bottle is under Federal limits but drinking a bottle a week for a year could be a different story. To be fair, eleven other brands other than Whole Foods also had detectable levels of arsenic. But I really figured Whole Foods, being the company I thought them to be, would remove this arsenic-tainted water from their shelves right away.

Late last week my wife and I were shopping at Whole Foods in Gainesville Florida, and of course, I looked to see if Starkey bottled water was still on the shelf. “Must be some mistake?” I thought, seeing it right there in the water aisle.  Unfortunately, it was no mistake, the manager knew all about it, she even read an internal communique stating that their arsenic is below FDA requirements and that “it’s natural arsenic, directly from the spring”. (As if that matters to anyone ingesting it)

In the New York Times, Deborah Blum writes in her article, The Arsenic in Our Drinking Water, “a number of studies suggest that arsenic is an astonishingly versatile poison, able to do damage even at low doses. Chronic low-dose exposure has been implicated not only in respiratory problems in children and adults but in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancers of the skin, bladder and lung.”

Arsenic tainted water at Whole Foods.
Arsenic tainted water at Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods manager in Gainesville went on to tell me she doesn’t “believe” in FDA standards while her assistant followed up by saying they sell a lot of Starkey’s water, she even knows a lady who buys several cases at a time, most shockingly she seemed very proud of that fact. “It’s every person’s choice to buy water that has arsenic in it (or not)”. Unfortunately, it’s not really a choice if you’ve never read the New York Time’s article.

I’m not happy complaining about a company where hard-working people make a living but it’s hard to stay silent about arsenic. What in God’s name are the executives at Whole Foods thinking, the issue will just fade away on it’s own?

“Jeff Bezo’s Arsenic Tainted Water” can’t be a topic he wants trending on Google and Twitter.  I can’t figure it out, there is no “win” here for Bezos or Whole Foods if this water stays on the shelves.

One would have to assume that as a gazillionaire, Jeff Bezos would care more about his reputation than a few dollars from arsenic-tainted water. I feel pretty sure if the bottled water wasn’t Whole Food’s own brand and if they hadn’t invested in their own manufacturing plant, they would have dropped the water long ago. What’s worse, the issue isn’t a new one, in late 2016 Whole Foods had to recall 2000 cases because of arsenic that exceeded FDA standards.

Bottled water is big business with huge profit margins, we all know bottled water is bad for the environment but at Whole Foods, it’s also bad for your health.

Back at Whole Foods today, “Jeff Bezos’ Starkey Water with Arsenic” is still on the shelves. It seems Whole Foods isn’t going to post a sign warning their customers about arsenic and they aren’t going to stop selling it. So what can you do other than not buy it?

I’d suggest looking to see if your Whole Foods still sells, Jeff Bezos’ Starkey Water with Arsenic”. If they do, ask the store manager about it and let us know what they have to say. Send a photo of the “Jeff Bezos’ Starkey Water with Arsenic” along with the location of the store and we’ll post it here. You can also post photos with your store’s location to our Facebook page. But whatever you do, don’t let your children drink anything from Whole Foods until they clear this matter up.

Comments can be posted on our Facebook Page here.

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Peter Cane is a professional photographer shooting for business clients in Washington DC and Baltimore. You can see his work at Peter Cane Photography