Outrage as Whole Foods CEO Says Ignorance and Poor Choices Cause Obesity

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has sparked backlash after saying that Americans are obese because they make poor choices, in an interview with the New York Times.

Mackey said that the world is getting fat but that Americans are leading the way. He also said that the U.S. has had "more of a problem" with COVID-19 due to obesity-related comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure.

Mackey has come under fire for saying that obesity is not an access problem, and instead said that ignorance and poor choices are to blame for obesity.

When journalist David Gelles mentioned issues around access and affordability as a reason why people eat unhealthy foods, the Whole Foods CEO said: "In some sense, we're all food addicts. We love things that are rich, that are sweet. We love ice cream. We love popcorn. We love French fried potatoes. And the market is providing people what they want.

"I don't think there's an access problem. I think there's a market demand problem. People have got to become wiser about their food choices. And if people want different foods, the market will provide it."

Mackey then went on to say: "Whole Foods has opened up stores in inner cities. We've opened up stores in poor areas. And we see the choices. It's less about access and more about people making poor choices, mostly due to ignorance.

"It's like being an alcoholic. People are just not conscious of the fact that they have food addictions and need to do anything about it."

Mackey's comments have faced a backlash for blaming obesity on "ignorance" rather than acknowledging that access and affordability are barriers for a lot of people when it comes to healthy food.

One Twitter user said: "If I, a poor person, have 6 dollars and have the option to either buy a couple of fresh fruits from Whole Foods or 6 frozen dinners from Walmart....guess which one I'm gonna pick?

"It's not 'poor choices'. WE HAVE NO MONEY to buy your OVERPRICED b*******"

Becky Bunch said: "Sorry we can't all afford your six dollar asparagus water, Mr. Whole Foods Man. We should make better choices."

Kivan said: "Another thing that pisses me off about this "poor people just make bad food choices and that's why they're fat" whole foods b******* is that it's so paternalistic and condescending and ignores, of course, things like time and energy"

Another Twitter user said: "Whole Foods almost exclusively builds their grocery stores only in affluent, white areas and they have the audacity to say that it's not about access"

Shoshana Wodinsky said: "f*** the john mackey interview, f*** the nyt for letting his racist/classist/outdated arguments run without opposition, and f*** *the entire whole foods company* for operating under the guise that gentrification is the best solution to systemic economic inequality"

Many people have also taken to Twitter to criticize the high prices at Whole Foods and to argue that many people cannot afford to buy fresh food when it can be so much more expensive than processed or fast food.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey
Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market John Mackey speaks onstage at Conscious Capitalism: Liberating The Heroic Spirit Of Business during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2013, in Austin. Mackey has come under fire for his comments on access and obesity in an interview with the New York Times. Getty/Dustin Finkelstein
Outrage as Whole Foods CEO Says Ignorance and Poor Choices Cause Obesity | U.S.