Thousands Petition for Trader Joe’s to Change ‘Racist’ Food Labels

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Thousands of people have signed a petition urging Trader Joe’s to change some of its food labels deemed insensitive and racist.

The petition: Organized by Briones Bedell, the petition demanded that the grocery chain remove its branding and packaging in its stores, explaining labeling the brand’s “ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ …belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”

  • Some of the examples listed were “Trader Ming’s” for the Chinese food, “Trader José” for Mexican brands, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian food, “Arabian Joe” for Middle Eastern food and “Trader Joe San” for the Japanese brands.
  • Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe was reportedly inspired by a book titled “White Shadows in the South Seas” and the controversial Disney theme park ride Jungle Cruise, according to the grocery chain’s website.
  • The book, published in 1919 by Frederick O’Brien, details the author’s tour of the South Pacific, and it allegedly demonstrates the “horrific legacy of trading companies as they exploited and enslaved the South Pacific in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” the petition reads.
  • “The book, White Shadows in the South Seas is racist because it perpetuates the myth of the ‘white god’ and the ‘noble savage’ stereotypes,” the petition continues, adding that the Disney Jungle Cruise is a racist attraction as it “displays caricatures of non-Western peoples alongside exotic animals, as an attraction at a theme park to be gawked at.”

Trader Joe’s response: The American grocery chain released a statement after the petition received thousands of signatures pushing for Trader Joe’s branding change, reported 6ABC.

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  • Trader Joe’s said they made the decision to update their brand names years ago, and that some of the products have already undergone name changes and expected to complete the process “very soon,” company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel told the media.
  • “While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect – one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day,” she said.

Feature Image (left) via CBS Los Angeles, (right) KENS 5

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