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What the heck? When you can’t trust Woolworths…

So Woolies have removed their rBST stickers from their dairy produce. Most consumers haven’t noticed. Or wouldn’t have, had it not been for the furore on social media over the removal of said stickers which implies the addition of hormones to their moo products.

In 2006, they swore they wouldn’t do that. They claimed to be the only supermarket chain in South Africa who would. (Click here to read Woolworth's press statement from 2006)

And we all trusted them.

It has also been made public knowledge that Woolworths bread has amongst the highest Soya content of all bread in South Africa, and the Soya is GMO. There are some little fine print clauses which mean that we actually knew this all along and Woolies can’t be held responsible for the oestrogen overdose given to our children thanks to the Soya content, but surely this is isn’t right?

Makes you wonder what else is misinformed or fine-printed out of plain sight?

I am a logical person and know that one store can’t be held responsible for our health. Certainly not a store whose biggest sellers are those addictive little Chuckles. They are, like their counterparts, trying to make a profit. The shelves are lined with fine produce, some of which better than you can find elsewhere, prices slightly reflective of this supposed higher standard. You find people who will say things like, “I’m a Woolies snob” or “There better be a Woolies food in heaven…” and they may even half mean it. The name is linked with a higher standard and supposedly, far more social concern.

Yet, recently, they’ve been in the poo a little more than what sits comfortably with me.

There was the Frankie’s Soft drink debacle: the Goliath took on David and tried to steal their product and packaging. David won. People were outraged when the story broke because it made our (privileged) neighbourhood grocer seem like a bully. The courts agreed and the fraudulent merchandise was off the shelves in a nanosecond. Shame on you, Woolworths. (Click here to read about the Frankies vs Woolworths case)

Questions have also been raised about their free-range eggs. No one seems one hundred percent certain what Woolworths defines as free-range, nor where their eggs actually come from. When asked, their response is, as is to be expected from a large conglomerate, their sources are kept a secret to protect their business and keep the market competitive. I get that. But when people are asking, “Can you guarantee your eggs come from chickens who wander free for hours during the day?” Their response should not be to close the company ranks and remain mum.

On the hormone issue, they have been playing fairly open cards. Legislation and terminology have changed and thus their milk products can no longer be guaranteed rBST free. So there’s that. Naturally, as a consumer, we should be concerned that there’s a chance that they never really were, but a more lenient legislative process based on lack of information at the time meant that they could call their dairy rBST free and not actually be totally and completely hormone free.  (Click here to read Woolworth's response to the rBST issue)

The sceptic in me is starting to get ansty and like the media storm surrounding their precious brand at the moment, I would like answers.

However, my questions aren’t what you would expect. They are for a far wider concern which many folks seem to be ignoring in these early days of health awareness.

  • Why is Woolworths our only option for rBST free dairy products in the first place?
  • My Granny never put Soya in her bread, so why is there Soya in commercially produced bread?
  • Why are they selling avos imported from Spain, apricots from Turkey and beef from Namibia when South Africans can and do produce their own? And why can we buy strawberries basically all year round?
  • Why do all the fruits taste so similar?
  • What is up with those eggs in a jar??
  • And finally, when will someone come along and replace the profit-driven grocery stores that subject their customers to exorbitant prices and, as it turns out, false promises, fraudulent originality and less-than-the-best in product standards?

As for my last question, well. There is an answer. The answer’s name is FARMER. Not the big, GMO producing farmer who sells his maize to whoever pays the highest price, I mean farmer Bob, the guy on a small-holding producing small batches of truly free range chickens with scrawny legs and enormous breasts, from scratching around all day. I’m talking about farmer Dave who has a few dairy cows and milks them daily and drops off milk daily at the market. What he gets out is what you can buy. Full cream. Unpasteurised. No added anything!

Homegrown celery and spinach (my shoe tip is there to show the size!!)
Since I’ve found out about Woolies’ shenanigans, I’ve discovered at least four outlets for healthy, free range, truly organic and additive free foods in my area. Some of them even offer free delivery to my home. I have also become increasingly grateful for my little veggie garden, even if only for the few sweet potatoes and countless tomatoes we’ve harvested.

In saying this, I am actually glad that Woolworths has been nailed a bit. Had it not been for this scandal I would never have asked.

Maybe this will force more people to look elsewhere for their goods. Not that I wish Woolies a loss of income or anything. But I do believe in accountability. I really hate bullies. And I demand a more nutritionally sound option for my family. Perhaps a different grocery chain will pick up the baton and try to become a source of whole, real foods?

Whoever it is has a golden opportunity now to be the ones who source these options for us. As a store, they could be the niche provider of wholesome foods. It would be a welcome sight to get to Woolworths and see moo products that have got the ‘rBST Free’ stickers back on and know that what’s inside the milk bottle really wont add any unnecessary hormones into our bodies. In fact, while they’re at it, they can aim for adding less sugar and additives too. But that’s just a thought.

Sweet potatoes from my garden ;)
In the mean time, I would like to encourage you to find someone local to support; even if only for one or two products. Grow your own vegetables if you have the means or the space or the inclination. Whether you’re Banting or Paleo or Mediterranean or plain old eating, that farmer would appreciate the support and your body would appreciate the reduction of rubbish. 

Already, if reports are to be trusted, we’ve got depleted nutrients in our soils, suspicious stuff in our water and a bombardment of different eating options which could confuse, frustrate or discourage us from healthy eating. We’re spending a fortune on supplements for vitamins and minerals our food used to provide. When we pay hard-earned money for a food product from a store, (especially a store that charges that little bit more for that little bit of something extra,) we should at least be fed by what is placed on the plate. It shouldn’t just be a space filler – it should also make us stronger, healthier and feel completely satisfied.


  1. Carrie I couldn't agree more! I have gone away from chain stores and am doing my very own store, Abundant Life. My vision is to make whol, healthy and as organic as I can possibly get foods available to everyone. I have fantastic suppliers of quality venison, chicken, dairy, eggs and I am growing the vegetables and herbs. I am also doing whole breads that are grain-free and paleo/banting friendly. I am currently running it from home but have put a proposal for premises to open a shop where you can get everything you need at affordable prices.


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