Petition urges Trader Joe’s to get rid of ‘racist’ ethnic food labels

An online petition is making the rounds asking Trader Joe’s to change the labels on some of its products that critics say have “racist” branding.

The grocer has special labels on several of its international food items, with “Arabian Joe” appearing on Middle Eastern products, “Trader Ming’s” on Chinese products, and “Trader José” on Mexican products. A petition, started two weeks ago by a high school senior in California, claims that these modifications perpetuate “harmful stereotypes,” and this branding is “racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters as falling outside of it.”

Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said in a statement the company has already changed the packaging for a number of products with variations of the Trader Joe’s name, but the process is ongoing. The international naming “may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness,” Friend-Daniel said, but Trader Joe’s recognizes “that it may have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day.”

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