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Whole Foods Sold Unapproved Pet Products, Lawsuit Claims

Posted: Sept. 13, 2013, 4:10 p.m. EDT


The California Department of Pesticide Regulation this week accused Whole Foods Market of not fully cooperating in an investigation into the sale of unregistered pet products.

The department, which oversees the regulation, sale and use of pesticides, is concerned about four products: 365 Natural Pine Pellets Cat Litter, Purely Botanical Cat Flea Spray, Purely Botanical Dog Flea Spray and Environmental Bugs R Done bug spray.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Beth Krauss said the litter and sprays "have not yet been determined to be pesticides,” while department spokeswoman Charlotte Fadipe countered that "we believe [Whole Foods] is selling unregistered pesticide products ... aimed at pets.”

 Produce
Whole Foods Market calls itself "America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court, asks a judge to compel Whole Foods to release all the documents that investigators want to examine. Whole Foods was served with a subpoena April 26 and in a response delivered a month later "objected to each category of documents requested,” the department reported.

The supermarket chain, which touts its natural and organic selections for people and pets, defended its actions.

"Whole Foods Market has already voluntarily provided the California Department of Pesticide Regulation with abundant information over a four-year period to help ... with its investigation,” Krauss said.

She declined to say whether the products are still on store shelves.

The department has reached financial settlements with other pet product retailers.

PetSmart paid $392,842 in September 2012 after the Phoenix-based chain was accused of selling 33 unregistered pesticide pet products in California, ranging from antimicrobial cage liners and reptile bedding to flea and tick pet shampoo.

"Pesticides cannot be sold or used in California unless they are registered by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and [the department] to ensure they do what the label claims and can be used safely without harming people, pets and the environment,” director Brian R. Leahy said at the time. "Products that contain pesticides but aren’t registered have not undergone a scientific review to determine under what conditions they are safe to use and if they are effective.”

Two months later, San Diego-based Petco agreed to pay $133,117 for selling 40 unregistered products.

Whole Foods Market, headquartered in Austin, Texas, operates 72 stores in California and more than 260 other stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

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