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Trader Joe’s moves to change packaging blasted for being ‘racist’

Trader Joe's has recently come under fire for "racist" packaging of ethnic foods. After a petition calling for the grocer to change its packaging gained traction, the company vowed to eliminate the racially charged names.

Updated: July 20, 2020 - 6:55pm

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More than 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for Trader Joe’s to permanently remove potentially “racist” branding on some of its ethnic foods. 

The grocer’s labels for international foods included Trader José’s for Mexican food, Arabian Joe’s for Middle Eastern food, Trader Ming’s for Chinese food, Trader Joe San for Japanese food and Trader Giotto’s for Italian food. 

The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” the petition stated.

The petition also cited some of the inspiration of Trader Joe’s, including the book and silent film White Shadows in the South Seas. 

“This work demonstrates the horrific legacy of trading companies as they exploited and enslaved the South Pacific in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these regions are still at a disadvantage today because of how traders ravaged their peoples, their societies, and their natural resources.”

Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel reported to NPR that the grocer had already been in the process of changing all of its packaging to the original Trader Joe’s name. 

Friend-Daniel said the “racist” packaging could have been a misguided attempt to be inclusive. 

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."

Other companies have also made an effort to eliminate potentially racist names and imagery in the wake of the death of George Floyd and massive protests across the country. These companies include the syrup brand Aunt Jemima, the rice company Uncle Ben’s and the Washington Redskins football team, among others.