Whole Foods Snafu Lands Grocer in Holy Mess

Image: www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Image: www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Whole Foods had a hot mess on its hands today after an anti-Islam blogger took to the web-waves to slam the national grocer for incorporating halal food offerings in its stores around the nation. The organic, health-conscious store has been promoting its month-long offerings for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, even offering guest blogger Yvonne Maffei of MyHalalKitchen.com a chance to provide her point of view. The she-who-shall-not-be-named blogger lit a warpath towards Whole Foods, claiming its partnership with Saffron Road – and in particular, their promotion of halal products – was in essence “promoting anti-Israeli” sentiment and ”jihadism.”

Whole Foods’ initial statement regarding their new product line was this:

We’re always looking for ways to expand our product mix and provide a wide variety of high-quality natural and organic foods for our diverse customer base. We celebrate the many food choices we offer our shoppers throughout the year that satisfy a variety of lifestyles and dietary preferences. Many of our shoppers requested that we carry more halal offerings to meet their needs and we listened. We recently launched frozen entrees from Saffron Road and we are highlighting these new products that are not just halal certified, but that also meet our high quality standards. Just like the other ethnic and special diet foods we carry, we’re excited to also offer halal products with this line of quality frozen entrees.

However, in response to the brouhaha of she-who-shall-not-be-named, one of Whole Foods’ 12 operating regions sent on an email directive that the Houston Press was able to attain, saying:

“It is probably best that we don’t specifically call out or ‘promote’ Ramadan…We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered ‘celebrating or promoting’ Ramadan.”


The Houston Press article, in combination with the mega-ripple effect known as social media, caused an uproar in communities supportive of both the Islamic and Jewish faiths. Saad Ranginwala, a Muslim medical student at Ohio State University said in response to the Ramadanophobic missive above, “Ramadan is a time of patience and charity among Muslims. It seems these actions are in opposition to Whole Foods’ track record of celebrating diversity among religion and culture in America.”

Whole Foods itself, grappling with a Twitter backlash, released tweets this afternoon clarifying the situation.

The Whole Foods Twitter feed

Twitter users and Whole Foods fans tweeted their appreciation for the quick response on behalf of the WF team, who reciprocated: “We welcome those that are celebrating #Ramadan this month…that’s why we’ve increased our halal offerings.”

Kudos to Whole Foods for offering healthy alternatives and, now, halal food choices during Ramadan.

Will you head out to a Whole Foods near you and support their all-inclusive efforts?


Sabeen H. Ahmad is Co-Editor of Divanee. You can follow her updates on her blog: Lafz.