(Web Editor's Note: This article is an updated version of a story we first posted on Jan. 14).

(Jan. 16, UPDATED, 10:22 a.m.) Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. is asking its competitors for help in its ongoing battle with the Federal Trade Commission over its acquisition of Wild Oats.

At the same time, the FTC is asking a judge to order Whole Foods to convert stores back to the Wild Oats brand.

Whole Foods chief executive officer John Mackey sent a letter Jan. 12 to 93 retailers in 29 markets seeking information to aid the company’s defense that it competes in the general market and not in an FTC-defined “premium, natural and organic” niche.

Jim Sud, Whole Foods’ executive vice president, and Lanny Davis, an outside attorney for Whole Foods, held a press conference Jan. 13 to explain the retailer’s reasons for seeking the information, which includes pricing and other confidential data.

The FTC alleges the merger will result in higher prices, reduced quality and reduction in service levels, Sud said.

“In fact, the opposite has occurred, and we will provide evidence of that,” he said.

Administrative hearings over the fate of stores in 29 markets where the FTC says Whole Foods has a monopoly are set to begin in April.

On Jan. 12, the FTC filed papers in U.S. District Court asking Judge Paul Friedman to order all Wild Oats stores that had been rebranded as Whole Foods to be restored and a trustee appointed to manage the separate Wild Oats assets.

Sud and Davis said that would be impossible.

“The merger, for all intents and purposes, is complete,” Sud said. “There is no more Wild Oats.”

Sud said all that remains of Wild Oats is about a half dozen signs awaiting local municipal clearance to be changed to Whole Foods signage.

Whole Foods got a shot in early January when Los Angeles-based investment firm Yucaipa Cos. announced it had bought about 7% of its common stock.

The company’s stock jumped 23% after the announcement.

Yucaipa, which his headed by investor Ron Burkle, previously owned as much as 20% of Wild Oats. It also has owned shares in Cataret, N.J.-based Pathmark Stores and the chains Food 4 Less and Ralphs Grocery Co. prior to selling them to The Kroger Co., Cincinnati. It also held Chicago-based Dominick’s Finer Foods before it sold to Safeway Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.

In the SEC filing, the company said it believes the shares in Whole Foods it bought were “undervalued by the market at the time they were acquired.” And there are “substantial opportunities for the company to improve operations and its pricing image while maintaining its high-quality product offering.”