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Petition Calls For Trader Joe's To Change 'Racist' Packaging

MARINA DEL REY (CBSLA) -- Trader Joe's says it is taking action after a petition called for it to change "racist" packaging.

According to the petition, which has been signed by more than 1,800 people at last check, "the grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of 'Joe' that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes."

"For example, 'Trader Ming's' is used to brand the chain's Chinese food, 'Arabian Joe' brands Middle Eastern foods, 'Trader José' brands Mexican foods, 'Trader Giotto's' is for Italian food, and 'Trader Joe San' brands their Japanese cuisine," the petition continues.

RELATED: Trader Joe's Founder Joe Coulumbe Dead At 89

California high school senior Briones Bedell started the petition, also saying that "The Trader Joe's branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures - it presents 'Joe' as the default 'normal' and the other characters falling outside of it."

A Trader Joe's location in Marina del Rey has already appeared to phase out some of the branding the petition pointed to.

The grocery chain released a statement in response to the petition, saying it has been actively making changes.

"While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day," company spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel said.

The grocery chain is one of several companies that have recently come under fire for branding that critics say promotes stereotyping.

Last month, Quaker Oaks said it would retire the Aunt Jemima name and character. The maker of Uncle Ben's rice said it would update the brand's character as well, and Eskimo Pie's leadership team also agreed to change the name.

Trader Joe's first opened in 1967 in Pasadena and now has more than 500 store locations across the country. The chain's founder and namesake Joe Coulombe died in February at his Pasadena home.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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