The Whole Foods store at the corner of Denny Way and Westlake Avenue was evacuated for a short time Saturday afternoon after employees found two envelopes in public areas of the store leaking liquids that gave off a sulfur smell.
The Seattle Fire Department, which evacuated the store as a precautionary measure, said the substance tested negative for anything hazardous and that the store employees who had handled the envelopes displayed no symptoms.
The fire department did not evacuate stores, restaurants or residences above or near the Whole Foods.
The Seattle Police Department, which will now handle the investigation, had not determined as of Saturday afternoon what the substance was.
But there was something written on the envelope “that caused us concern,” said Lt. Greg Sackman with Seattle Police. He said he couldn’t disclose what those things were because the investigation is ongoing.
Joe Rogoff, regional president of Whole Foods, said he hadn’t read the envelopes but that he assumed the incident might be connected to a demonstration Saturday against seed giant Monsanto. Protests against Monsanto were scheduled to be held in hundreds of cities across the world Saturday, with organizers saying that the intent was to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the companies that produce it. In Seattle, the protest included a march from Westlake Park to the Gates Foundation near the Seattle Center.
If the demonstration and suspicious envelopes are connected, Rogoff said, leaving the envelopes in the store was a “misguided” effort given that some Whole Foods employees and shoppers likely share the same concerns about genetically modified foods as the demonstrators. Whole Foods has committed to labeling all its foods containing genetically modified ingredients by 2018, he said.
Lt. Sackman would not comment on whether there was a connection between the demonstration and the envelopes.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.