SACRAMENTO, CA - The state of California is suing Whole Foods, claiming the company that calls itself "America's healthiest grocery store" is flouting California's pesticide regulations.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) says Whole Foods is selling four products containing pesticides that have not been registered with the state, and that the company has resisted efforts to bring it into compliance.
"Put it this way: it's not news to Whole Foods," said DPR spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe. "We've been going back on this at least a year."
The four products named in the lawsuit are 365 Natural Pine Pellets cat litter, Purely Botanical cat flea spray, Purely Botanical dog flea spray and Enviroman Bugs R Done insect spray.
The state claims the products are also being sold by Mrs. Gooch's Natural Food Markets, a subsidiary of Texas-based Whole Foods Market, Inc.
According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Sacramento County Superior Court, the California Attorney General's Office served investigative subpoenas on Whole Foods in April and the company responded with an objection to each category of documents requested and did not produce the desired information.
Fadipe said there's nothing to indicate the products are unsafe, but registration allows DPR to make an independent evaluation.
None of the four products listed in the lawsuit was found in a check of two Sacramento-area Whole Foods stores, but Fadipe said if they had been sold at any California location within the past four years, the company would be in violation.
California collects 2.1 cents per dollar on sales of registered pesticide products and those selling unregistered pesticides are subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.
PetSmart agreed to pay a $143,000 civil penalty last year for selling 33 unregistered pesticide pet products in California. Petco, which sold 40 unregistered products, settled with the state for $133,000.
"All we want is for Whole Foods to play by the same rules that everybody else plays by," Fadipe said.
Beth Krauss, a spokesperson for Whole Foods stores in Northern California and Nevada, said the company's legal team was evaluating the lawsuit but that she could not comment on pending litigation.
The state is seeking a court order forcing Whole Foods to produce the records sought by DPR or to offer an acceptable explanation why it failed to do so last spring.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net