© Mira / Alamy
Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017

Whole Foods isn’t the only specialty grocery store that under the scrutiny by the federal government (though sometimes it feels that way). Earlier this week, the US Justice Department and EPA announced they had reached a settlement with Trader Joe’s after government officials alleged the grocery chain was as casual as a Hawaiian shirt when it came to following the Clean Air Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, Trader Joe’s has “agreed to reduce emissions of potent greenhouse gases from refrigeration equipment at 453 of its stores” by spending “an estimated $2 million over the next three years to reduce coolant leaks from refrigerators and other equipment and improve company-wide compliance,” according to an EPA press release. The brand was also hit with a $500,000 civil penalty.


The agreement stems from allegations that Trader Joe’s violated the Clean Air Act thanks to leaky refrigerators that didn’t get repaired promptly and lacked adequate servicing and compliance records. As a result, the government believes stores were emitting R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon that can do damage to the ozone. I don’t know how many bags of Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips you have to sell to offset the environmental impact of an oversight like that, but I’m guessing it’s a lot.

Regardless of the grocer’s past indiscretions, however, the EPA spoke optimistically of the deal. “The company-wide upgrades Trader Joe’s will make are not only good for the environment, they set a high bar for the grocery industry for detecting and fixing coolant leaks,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Even better, Trader Joe’s can now market its Reduced Guilt Frozen Mac & Cheese as coming with even less guilt! Who says following federal environmental regulations doesn’t come with benefits?

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