AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Whole Foods Market announced Wednesday that by April of 2016 they will no longer sell food made by prison labor.
The move was prompted by a protest in Houston criticizing the supermarket chain for selling food that exploited the work of low-paid prisoners in prison work programs.
"People are incarcerated and then forced to work for pennies on the dollar — compare that to what the products are sold for," Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston and organizer of the protest told National Public Radio.
Whole Foods Market sells goat cheese by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Longmont, Colo. and tilapia from Quixotic Farming. Both companies partner with Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the state's Dept. of Corrections that employs prisoners to raise the fish and milk the goats.
CCI's employs about 1,600 inmates with the goal to give them job skills that could help them find work when they are released.
"One of our core values as a company is supporting our communities," Whole Foods spokesperson Michael Silverman said. "We felt that supporting suppliers who found a way to be part of paid, rehabilitative work being done by inmates would help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society."
But Silverman said consumers have spoken.
"We have heard from some shoppers and members of the community that they were uncomfortable with Whole Foods Market's sourcing products produced with inmate labor," he said. ""We want to make sure we are in tune with our customers' wishes."