The Whole Foods on 7th Ave. and 24th St. in Chelsea is a nightmare in many ways—please, don’t get me started!—but if you get there right when the doors open at 8AM it’s bearable. They have
good coffee at their coffee bar in back of the store, and a wide variety of hot teas. They have a good selection of muffins and scones in their bakery department, including, most importantly from my perspective, sugar-free ones. Since the closing of the much-missed Taylor Bakery on 18th a few years back, Whole Foods has been the only place in the neighborhood to find such items.
So you can imagine my consternation when, for two weeks running, the store didn’t have any sugar-free offerings. I finally complained to the bakery manager, a woman, that they seemed to have stopped carrying their sugar-free muffins and scones. I pointed out that they used to have a sugar-free cranberry muffin, but now they had something that looked just like it, but was labeled “Vegan Cranberry” and had maple syrup in it. She told me that that was the same muffin they had always carried, and that they had never carried a sugar-free cranberry muffin.
This wasn’t the first time they’d tried to discontinue the sugar-free products, so I had complained before. I knew that you had to keep after these people, because they’re always trying to put sugar into everything because it’s so cheap. In a sugar-free muffin they have to use costlier ingredients such as eggs and butter and cream—and fruit juice as a sweetener--in order to make it taste decent.
My girlfriend Debbie also called and spoke to the bakery. After being repeatedly put on hold, she finally got through to a man who identified himself as a bakery employee. He said that sometimes they ran out of ingredients—though it’s funny they never run out of sugar--and that he’d call her back once he found out what had happened.
Though he never did call Debbie back, a woman named Femima (possibly the same woman I spoke to) did call the next day. Femima explained that the muffins had been mislabeled all along, that in fact they had never been sugar-free, but had always contained maple syrup. That’s why the sugar-free cranberry muffin looked exactly the same as the vegan cranberry muffin: they were the same!
It’s the same with the “sugar-free” currant scones: never actually sugar-free, they are now labeled “No-sugar Added Currant Scones” and contain Agave Syrup (though that still sounds like they are adding sugar).
What’s more, it seems that in past instances when I complained that they had appeared to be discontinuing sugar-free products, it had been the same thing: they had just changed the labels to reflect the true ingredients. And when I raised a stink they just changed the labels back! How’s that for customer service?
Thankfully, I am not a diabetic. For someone who is, this mislabeling could lead them to eat something that could induce a potentially life-threatening condition. I don’t see why everything I eat should have to contain sugar. But really, my reasons for wanting to avoid sugar are immaterial: the bottom line is, Whole Foods shouldn’t be mislabeling their products.