Aldi is one of the largest grocery retailers in the world with stores in 18 countries.
Founded in Germany in 1961 on the principle “Great quality shouldn’t come at a high price; rather, great quality should come with everyday low prices”, Aldi has been steadily expanding in the United States since its first store in Iowa in 1976.
It’s now a major player in the “no-frills grocery shopping experience” with 1,600 stores in 34 states. Plus, many more are due to open in the near future (1).
In a bold and progressive move, Aldi has announced that it will focus on a more healthful, conscious approach to the products it carries.
With its own brand of food products comprising 90% of the items on its shelves, Aldi will be adding more organic and gluten-free foods (2).
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Of special note is Aldi’s commitment to remove all products that contain neonicotinoid pesticides, including:
Nicotine to Kill Bugs
In recent years, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides has become a hot topic of discussion due to the observable and alarming destruction of bee colonies around the world.
Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine (neo=new, nicotin=nicotine). They are water-soluble, so they can be mixed with water and used during waterings. Plants absorb the water and their leaves then become toxic to insects. Farmers also use the chemicals to treat seeds before planting and sometimes spray them onto foliage.
Because the neurotoxin becomes part of the plant itself, neonicotinoids are intended to only kill the insects that eat parts of it, like aphids and beetles. A synthetic pesticide, “neonics” attack the nervous system, causing paralysis and death. It has become apparent that flowers and their pollen on treated plants also contain the toxins.
Bees land on flowers, eat nectar and bring the contaminated pollen back to the hive on their legs and wings. This is how an entire hive full of bees can die from the inadvertent spread of the neonicotinoids. The effects on the nervous system also affect the bee’s ability to find their way back to the hive, causing the individual’s eventual death.
Unfortunately, the application of this class of insecticide has boomed, with residue levels in food (various vegetables, fruits, and honey) increasing from 4.7% in 2007 to 12.6% in 2010. The European Union has since banned neonicotinoids due to the potential harm to non-targeted animals and humans (3).
Studies Confirm its Toxicity
A 2014 study on the prevalence of these insecticides in food found:
“…We quantitatively measured neonicotinoids in various foods that are common to human consumption. All fruit and vegetable samples (except nectarine and tomato) and 90% of honey samples were detected positive for at least one neonicotinoid…All pollen samples from New Zealand contained multiple neonicotinoids and 5 out of 7 pollen from Massachusetts detected positive for imidacloprid. These results show the prevalent presence of low level neonicotinoid residues in fruits, vegetables and honey that are readily available in the market for human consumption and in the environment where honeybees forage. In light of the new reports of toxicological effects in mammals, our results strengthen the importance to assess dietary neonicotinoid intakes and the potential human health effects.” (4)
As the result of this and over 1,100 recent studies that link neonics to massive declines in bee populations, consumers have urged farmers to stop using them and garden/home stores from selling them. In response, Maryland has completely banned neonics for consumer use (5).
What’s more, a 2015 court decision in California overturned U.S. federal approval of a new neonicotinoid called sulfoxaflor, citing, “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had relied on ‘flawed and limited’ data, and its green light was unjustified given the ‘precariousness of bee populations’” (6).
The battle rages and these insecticides are still widely used in commercial crops.
Aldi and Organic Food
In light of the negative effects on the world’s bees (and potentially humans) caused by neonics, Aldi made the decision to remove any products that contain them from its stores.
Plus, Aldi is also planning other changes that consider health impacts in its manufactured foods:
- No synthetic food coloring
- No hydrogenated oils
- No monosodium glutamate
- No artificial ingredients in its “SimplyNature” line
- No growth hormones in its dairy products
- Expanding organic meat offerings and no antibiotics, hormones, and animal by-products in its “NeverAny!” label
- Expanding selections of artisan cheese and smoked fish, adding alternative whole grains choices, and its own brand of coconut oil
With these changes, the company has positioned itself to become the largest organic and natural food store chain in the world. It is the latest large-scale company in the food industry that has taken a stance to provide its customers with better quality options.
This is very good news for anyone who eats.