US retailer Whole Foods Market has defended last year’s merger with Wild Oats Markets as antitrust officials again look to undo the US$565m deal.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission attempted to block Whole Foods’ acquisition of its smaller competitor due to competition concerns. However, a federal judge ruled in favour of Whole Foods and the merger went ahead last August.

The FTC has now brought the case to the court of appeals.

“We maintain that the acquisition of Wild Oats did not diminish competition,” a spokesperson for Whole Foods told just-food yesterday (24 April). “We believe that the district court came to an accurate conclusion when it said that the combination of Wild Oats and Whole Foods would not have a negative impact on consumers.”

The FTC has said that the merger is not complete and that there is still time to stop the combination in its tracks.

The court was also asked to grant an injunction effectively stopping the ongoing merger process while its administrative law judge considered the deal.

When Whole Foods reported its first-quarter earnings last month, the natural foods retailer revealed that it has already sold 35 Wild Oats stores and closed a further 12 outlets.