Following a year-long investigation of Whole Foods Markets in California, state and county weights and measures inspectors found that it was charging more than advertised for a wide variety of food items; the company has reportedly agreed to pay nearly $800,000 in penalties and to conduct its business for the next five years under strict oversight. According to the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, Whole Foods (i) failed to account for the weight of containers when charging for self-serve foods at the salad and hot bars, (ii) labeled foods sold by pound with higher weights than actually contained in the package, and (iii) sold items by the piece that should have been sold by the pound.
Retailers bound by the judgment include those operated by Whole Foods Market California, Inc. and Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Foods Markets, Inc. The company has also agreed to appoint two “state coordinators” who will oversee pricing accuracy at all stores throughout the state, designate an employee with responsibility for accurate pricing at every store, conduct four random audits at every store annually, and “charge accurate prices and provide the advertised weight on all items.” Of the $798,394 in penalties and costs, $630,000 constitutes civil penalties, $100,000 will be paid to a statewide weights and measures enforcement trust fund, and more than $60,000 will reimburse the investigative costs of city attorneys in Santa Monica, San Diego and Los Angeles. See Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office News Release, June 24, 2014.