Several consumers are suing Whole Foods, claiming traces of antibiotics were found in their beef products labeled antibiotic-free, according to a lawsuit filed in California this week.
Whole Foods uses the slogan “Our Meat: Never Antibiotics” in its marketing materials, such as packaging, in-store signage and on its parent website, Amazon.
But one of the plaintiffs, Farm Forward, a nonprofit dedicated to ending factory farming, said it conducted its own tests in 2021 and 2022 and found traces of the growth antibiotic monensin sodium, in a sample of a Whole Foods beef product, and fenbendazole, a parasiticide, in five Whole Foods beef products.
The organization said it shared its findings with the CEO of Whole Foods, but received no response. The organization also claims it emailed a Whole Foods executive in 2017 suggesting a testing method to verify the supermarket’s antibiotic-free claims, but was told “the repercussions of a positive result were more than ridiculous”.
A spokesperson for Whole Foods said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
The lawsuit also claims that Whole Foods financially exploited its customers by charging significantly more for its meat products than its competitors, claiming that their products are healthier.
“The consumer plaintiffs would not have purchased beef products, or paid the prices they paid, had they known the truth that the cattle used in the products were raised with antibiotics,” indicates the complaint.
Some of Whole Foods’ cattle come from the Global Partnership for Animals (GAP) Animal Welfare Certification Program. A study published on Science.org in April revealed that in an independent lab test, 26% of those cattle tested positive for antibiotics.
A Whole Foods spokesperson said consumer reports at the time: “We have thoroughly reviewed the information made available to us and have no reason to believe that the cattle tested in this study have ended up in products in our stores. We take compliance very seriously and never hesitate to act if a supplier has failed to meet our rigorous quality standards.”