New Whole Foods' Seafood Labels Advise Which Fish to Avoid -- Now You Tell Me!

Kim Conte

whole foods seafood labelsBeen to a Whole Foods recently? Then you've noticed that the seafood section is looking a little different.

Whole Foods launched a sustainability ratings program for wild-caught seafood this week in order to help customers make informed decisions about the fish they are purchasing.

New, color-coded labels indicate the "Seafood Watch" rating of each product. Seafood with green labels is the best choice: This means it's abundant, well-managed, and caught in environmentally friendly ways. Yellow labels are good alternatives although there are some concerns with how it was caught. And red labels mean you should avoid that seafood at all costs because it's been caught in ways that harm the environment or other marine life.

That's right. Whole Foods is actually telling customers to AVOID some of its products.

It's truly admirable that a grocery chain would steer its customers away from unsustainable seafood -- even if it means sacrificing a sale.

However, it begs the question of why Whole Foods is still carrying unsustainable seafood if it's such a bad choice. This conundrum is (sort of) addressed on the chain's official site:

We already stopped selling especially vulnerable red-rated species [Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna, sharks, etc.] ... Under this new program, all swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries will be eliminated from seafood counters by Earth Day 2011. And by Earth Day 2012, all other seafood from red-rated fisheries will be discontinued with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day 2013.

Hmmm. So, evaluating and negotiating the fishing practices of the chain's long-term partners is a process that will take some time. I actually get it.

Still, I feel just a tad bit slighted -- at the fact that the store would carry unsustainable seafood in the first place. I've always shopped at Whole Foods assuming that the chain had hand-picked from sources who produce food in environmentally friendly and socially responsible ways. But now I feel silly, as it seems this isn't always the case.

I'll take advantage of this new rating program, but now I'm skeptical of Whole Foods' other products.

What do you think of Whole Foods' new sustainability ratings program?


Image via Whole Foods

Read More