Whole Foods closing kitchens that made prepared foods

Markets Associated Press

Whole Foods says it's closing three regional kitchens that made prepared foods that are sold in its stores, and will instead rely on suppliers.

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Robin Kelly, a Whole Foods spokeswoman, says the closures of the company's three remaining commissaries are part of an effort to streamline the production of its prepared foods. She said the move is not related to a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration last year over violations on sanitary and other standards at one of the facilities in Massachusetts.

"This is purely a business decision," Kelly said.

The move comes as the Austin, Texas-based grocery chain has been cutting costs amid slumping sales. Whole Foods has been pressured by intensifying competition, and sales fell 2.5 percent at established locations for its last fiscal year.

Whole Foods Market says the three commissaries employed about 500 people, and it expects most of them will find jobs elsewhere in the company or with its suppliers.

The three commissaries are in Everett, Massachusetts; Landover, Maryland; and Atlanta, Georgia.