Go organic and get your healthcare reform for free

Liberal backlash against Whole Foods boss after he criticises Obama's plans

Barack Obama and the organic supermarket chain Whole Foods have something in common: they are both struggling with a backlash of disenchantment from the people who in the past have shown them the most love: liberals. And, bizarrely, it is healthcare reform that is causing all the strife.

Mr Obama perhaps always knew that he would be tested through the dog-days of summer on healthcare reform. But that Whole Foods, which now covers most of the US and also has outposts in London, has become embroiled in the debate is more surprising. The person to blame is John Mackey.

Maybe it was the Margaret Thatcher quote right at the beginning – "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money" – that got him in trouble or maybe it was just that he sounded so terribly conservative. But a column critical of Barack Obama's reforms penned by Mr Mackey, the CEO and founder of Whole Foods, for the Wall Street Journal, has many of his customers reaching for tomatoes – and not the organic ones from his shelves.

Furious erstwhile fans have so far congregated in a Facebook group called Boycott Whole Foods, which as of yesterday had almost 14,000 members. Its main page last night included calls for picketing at its anchor outlet in Manhattan at Union Square. "I don't shop at Whole Foods – too expensive. And now, I'll make sure none of my friends do either!" declared Vincent Bitetto of New Jersey in a typical post.

At the very least the chain appears to be facing a public relations disaster. It surely has not escaped the notice of Mr Mackey that there might be some dissonance between the libertarian views he is apt to express and the liberal leanings of the people who pay premium prices for his pesticide-free, water-drizzled food.

His staff sees the problem, apparently. "Certainly when our customers tell us they are unhappy to the extent that they are boycotting our stores, we are concerned," acknowledged Libba Letton, a spokeswoman for the chain. "We don't want them to leave us."

And Wall Street, which was already concerned about the impact of the recession on the company's numbers, is also worried. "Whole Foods relies heavily on its brand and image," notes Michelle Chang with the investment research firm Morningstar. "Any concern about its image would damage sales heavily. Whole Foods holds a certain appeal to consumers and if it deviates from that it could see some negative reaction from consumers."

In a blog on the company website, Mr Mackey partly blames the furore on a headline added by editors – "The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare". However, it would be hard for anyone not to conclude that he is opposed to the President's reform plans.

"While we clearly need healthcare reform," he wrote, "the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our healthcare system.

He does offer his own point-by-point prescription for change, which includes changes in tax laws and in the regulations on private insurers and, much less surprisingly, a call for Americans to eat better food.

"Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat," he writes. "We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age."

Where to buy that food? Whole Foods, one assumes. Although Mr Mackey doesn't explicitly say so.

Big issue: The American diet

66 percentage of overweight Americans, with a body mass index of 25-plus.

2,154 Average American daily calorie consumption – 304 calories more than 20 years ago.

170,000 Number of fast food restaurants in the United States.

3-4 Number of fast food meals eaten weekly by the average American teenager, leading to weight gains of around 1lb per week.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn