In fall 2014, Whole Foods Market will launch a comprehensive rating system for produce and flowers sold in its stores to help shoppers make more informed purchases, officials say. The company recently unveiled the rating system to suppliers.
“We are driven by our core values and are always looking at ways to enrich our customers’ experience, improve our communities and support our supplier partners,” says Edmund LaMacchia, global vice president of perishables for Whole Foods Market. “The new produce ratings will provide deeper transparency to our shoppers, helping them make conscious choices while also celebrating the great work and responsible practices of growers beyond their organic and local efforts.”
In September 2014, Whole Foods Market will present customers with a three-tier rating system and begin displaying ratings of “good,” “better” and “best” throughout produce and floral departments.
With the help of sustainable agriculture experts and with considerable input from suppliers, Whole Foods Market developed a science-based index to measure performance on important sustainable farming topics, including:
- Pest management, including prohibited and restricted pesticides
- Farmworker welfare
- Pollinator protection
- Water conservation and protection
- Soil health
- Waste, recycling and packaging
The program will recognize organic growers for the investment and achievement represented by organic certification while highlighting additional responsible practices, including farmworker welfare and resource conservation. The ratings will also reward suppliers for certification by a number of leading social and environmental standards including: Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Protected Harvest, and Demeter Biodynamic certification.
“For years, we’ve maintained organic and Fair Trade certifications and the new produce rating system will validate the worth of these programs. It also rewards those growers who go beyond requirements not because they have to, but because they want to,” says John Musser, owner of Tropic Trade.
Whole Foods Market has worked with its supplier partners for many years to protect and support pollinators, while also raising customer awareness on this issue, officials say. The ratings will recognize growers who take action to protect pollinators through specific pesticide practices, habitat restoration, and by controlling the impact of managed hives on farms.
”The new Whole Foods Market produce rating system addresses the primary threats facing pollinators today. Adopting the quality standards provides an immediate, meaningful, and long term framework for protecting both crop yields and biodiversity,” says Eric Mader, assistant pollinator program director for The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
With these enhanced standards, Whole Foods Market is committed to ensuring its suppliers reduce pesticide use and its risks to consumers, farmworkers, wildlife and the environment, officials say. The ratings provide an approach that eliminates or restricts the most toxic pesticides from the nation’s food supply and provide incentive for growers to measure and reduce other pesticide use.
“I applaud Whole Foods Market for its focus on reducing the use of pesticides that are harmful to farmworkers and consumers, especially children. This is a game changer that I hope will have a ripple effect throughout the grocery industry,” says Dr. Chuck Benbrook, research professor and program leader for the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Washington State University.
The ratings also will recognize and celebrate growers whose practices surpass Whole Foods Market’s base standards for produce and flowers, which address GMO transparency, food safety and traceability.