How Trader Joe’s Handled a Bad Week

Trader Joe's stock

One of our local Trader Joe’s stores.

Trader Joe’s is, arguably, the most successful grocery store in the United States. It makes more money per square foot of store space than any other grocer, and it is both a profit machine and a cult despite having only about 560 stores nationwide. TJ’s does many things well, including stocking an eclectic lineup of food, offering prices that are more competitive than you might think, and keeping the most interesting workers in any supermarket I’ve ever stepped in. Aldi’s distant cousin is a well-run operation.

That operation has experienced some headaches this week.

It sounds like the start of a terrible joke: what happens when you mix bugs and rocks into food at your local grocery store? The answer: you get multiple Trader Joe’s recalls. 

Trader Joe's recalled cookies

It started on Tuesday, July 25, when Trader Joe’s announced that it was recalling two different varieties of cookies. (We’ll leave it up to you to decide if this counts as one recall or two.) The two items were Trader Joe’s Almond Windmill Cookies and Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Chunk and Almond Cookies, both with October 2023 sell by dates.

The reason? Rocks in the cookies. Rocks.

I’ve been covering the grocery business for several years now, including plenty of recalls. If I’ve covered a recall that mentioned rocks in the product, I can’t remember it. I’m not even sure how that happens, to be honest, although clearly it’s possible, because it happened.

This recall alone was enough to make for a weird week. And then, two days later…

Sometimes stories just write themselves.

On Thursday, July 27, Trader Joe’s announced that it was recalling its Unexpected Broccoli Cheddar Soup with use by dates between mid-July and mid-September. This one hit me a little personally; we’ve reviewed both the soup and its sibling, the unexpected cheddar block. Both were terrific. Not at all a product I was happy about seeing getting the hook.

And I was even more disappointed to find out why.


Somehow bugs had gotten into the broccoli florets — perhaps because when you’re growing plants, it’s not out of the question that there might be insects nearby — which in turn were put in the soup. Jokes about added protein aside — and, trust me, I made them — this is the kind of recall PR firms have nightmares about. On paper, most of us would rather have bugs in our soup than, say, E. Coli or Listeria, both of which can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even fatal. In practice, most of us don’t want to think about insects in any of our food if we can get away with it.

No one at Trader Joe’s HQ had fun writing that recall announcement. And they weren’t even done yet, because…

Trader Joe's Falafel recall

Fully Cooked Falafel product packaging

The day after the soup recall, on Friday, July 28, the grocer made its third recall announcement in four days. Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Falafel was also under recall. Worse still, it was for the same reason as the first recall: rocks. Again.

Talk about lightning striking twice in the wrong place. The rock thing is so unusual that it makes me wonder if the cookies and falafel both somehow suffered from the same production mishap, although because TJ’s is, like Aldi, pretty secretive about suppliers, there’s no way to know.

Bad Week, Model Response

Communication has long been part of the Trader Joe’s success formula, and it is one of the things its shoppers like. TJ’s is one of the few grocers I know of who immediately email customers on their list whenever a recall happens. (Aldi doesn’t.) The company emails are straight and to the point. As much as it probably hurt putting out these releases this week, the supermarket did what it does best, which is alerting customers to what happened and, just as importantly, what to do about it.

Accordingly, in a separate statement published by NBC on Friday, July 28, Trader Joe’s said: “We will never leave to chance the safety of the products we offer. We err on the side of caution and are proactive in addressing issues. We take action quickly, aggressively investigating potential problems and removing product from sale if there is any doubt about its safety or quality.”

The company went on. “We don’t wait for regulatory agencies to tell us what to do. We share news through in-store signs, on our website, and through email alerts as soon as we need to let our customers know there might be a concern with any of our products. We take these matters seriously — personally, even, as our families eat and drink TJ’s products, too.”

All of the recalled products can be returned for a full refund. I have a feeling the shoppers who take up the store on that offer will probably spend even more money there before heading back home.

About Joshua

Joshua is the Co-founder of Aldi Reviewer. He is also a writer and novelist. You can learn more about him at


  1. “Jokes about added protein aside — and, trust me, I made them”

    As a dad, you’re required to 😏

  2. I noticed the falafel recall didn’t specify a sell by date to help narrow it down so I wonder if I should take back the box I bought over a month ago.

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