At Trader Joe’s, “S” is for Salmonella (and Stupid)
March 4 Update: The FDA has announced a spate of food recalls due to salmonella contamination of hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), an ingredient used in thousands of foods. A Trader Joe’s salad dressing is one of the recalled products, leading some to ask if the company intends to fully inform its consumers about the nature of the potential health issue involved.
Say your young child is sick, very sick. Earlier in the day, you noticed a sign at the grocery store about a food recall of a product your child eats. The recall notice said the product could cause a serious food-borne illness. You rush your child to the doctor, and the doctor asks you what illness was specified on the sign.
And you tell the doctor, the sign didn’t say.
As a result, proper treatment for your sick child will be delayed, simply because the store failed to adequately inform you about the nature of the problem. This could mean more suffering, or worse, for your child.
Let’s hope this is only a hypothetical situation. But sadly, today at Trader Joe’s, signs at the store inform shoppers of the risk of “a serious food-borne illness” linked to the company’s house-brand Chocolate Chip Chewy Coated Granola Bars. But the store signs fail to inform people that salmonella, which can cause hospitalization and even death, is the culprit.
Yesterday, I exchanged a series of emails and had a phone conversation about this with Matt Sloan, a VP of Marketing at Trader Joe’s. I implored him to simply add the word “salmonella” before the phrase “a serious food-borne illness” in their store signs. I stressed that the most important information a doctor can have is the specific illness a patient may be suffering. I noted that this simple change could alleviate suffering if a child was sickened by the product.
He replied that Trader Joe’s has found that too much complicated information would only confuse shoppers.
In other words, Trader Joe’s thinks its customers are too stupid to understand the word “salmonella.”
Now, I don’t think that’s true, but if you do, please send Matt a note to say “thanks” for treating you like a dim-wit who can’t handle the full information that your doctor may need to properly treat an illness.
But if you’re like me, and you’re shocked that Trader Joe’s refused to make this simple change to their store signs (a process which would cost them nothing and likely take less than 30 minutes of staff time to accomplish), please urge them to reconsider by emailing Trader Joe’s CEO Dan Bane and VP Matt Sloan. Click here for email addresses for Dan Bane and Matt and a suggested sample email to them (that you can cut and paste, and/or edit as you like).