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Trader Joe's says no to China

Consumer concerns remain high, driving the grocer's decision

United States: California-based health-food chain Trader Joe's has joined the backlash against Chinese imports by announcing it will ban single-ingredient Chinese products such as vitamins and rice in its stores by January 1, 2008.

Trader Joe's, owned by the German billionaire Albrecht family, owners of the pan-European discount supermarket Aldi, said the action was in response to its customers' concerns rather than any particular misgivings the chain had about the quality of its Chinese-sourced products.

"We feel confident that all of our products from China meet the same high quality standards that we set for all of our products," said spokesperson Alison Mochizuki. "However, our customers have voiced their concerns about products from this region and we have listened. 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."

Trader Joe's will continue to stock multiple-ingredient products that contain Chinese-sourced inputs.

Texas-based Whole Foods market said it had no plans to follow Trader Joe's lead, and noted that single-ingredient products comprised 'a very small percentage' of its range. Utah-based Food for Health International labels some of its products as 'China free.'

Imports from China have come under increased scrutiny this year as food scares such as melamine-contaminated pet foods have brought supply issues to the mainstream. About 70 per cent of the world's food and supplement ingredients are now sourced from China, and despite the fact that the quality of Chinese ingredients has improved markedly in recent years, American consumer surveys show as many as 80 per cent resisted purchasing Chinese-made products over fears of quality.

Congress has stated part of its current food legislation work is focused on 'the Chinese situation.'

"The imperative for all supplement and functional-foods companies to understand and address consumer, retailer and supply-chain management issues and concerns is obvious," said Loren Israelsen, executive director of the Utah-based United Natural Products Alliance.

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