WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) - A group of Democrats in Congress, in a letter this week, urged the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a more in-depth review of online retailer Amazon’s plan to buy grocer Whole Foods.
The lawmakers asked that the review include consideration of what effect the merger could have on access to healthy foods in less privileged areas, or “food deserts,” where residents may have limited access to fresh groceries.
“While we do not oppose the merger at this time, we are concerned about what this merger could mean for African-American communities across the country already suffering from a lack of affordable healthy food choices from grocers,” the letter said.
The letter was signed by U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge and 11 additional Democrats, including Senator Cory Booker.
It was made public by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), which represents many of the unionized grocery workers in America. Fudge’s office confirmed it was sent by her.
Amazon did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Amazon’s plan announced in June to buy premium grocer Whole Foods for $13.7 billion roiled the grocery industry and sparked worries the deal could raise prices, reduce the quality of products and possibly hurt employment.
Still, most antitrust experts expect the Federal Trade Commission to approve the planned merger.
The letter asking for more scrutiny was praised by the UFCW union.
“Political concerns about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods are growing for good reason,” said Marc Perrone, President of the UFCW. “Amazon’s monopolistic desire to control the retail market and replace good jobs with automation is not only a direct threat to the hard-working men and women at Whole Foods, it’s also a direct threat to our economy and consumers.” (Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)