News Feature | January 31, 2014

Whole Foods Rolls Out New Sustainability Rating System

Source: Food Online

By Samantha Cortez, Contributing Writer, Food Online

Whole Foods Store

Organic grocer is setting out to improve transparency in the supply chain while reducing the agriculture industry’s use of pesticides

Whole Foods will be unveiling a new initiative this coming fall to provide a higher level of transparency of its products to consumers.  The launch will not only provide consumers with insight regarding how sustainable its fresh produce is, the system also holds the potential to change the relationship between Whole Foods and its suppliers.

The new labeling system was developed with the help of agriculture experts and comes with its own set of science-based indexes. These indexes take into account several sustainable farming issues such as water conservation and protection, pollinator protection, pest management, farmworker welfare, and soil health. The three-tier rating system will label items as “good,” “better,” and “best,” depending on how the item fares according to the indexes. Whole Foods claims the ratings will “provide an industry-leading approach that eliminates or restricts the most toxic pesticides from the nation’s food supply and will provide incentive for growers to measure and reduce other pesticide use.”

“The new Whole Foods Market Produce rating system addresses the primary threats facing pollinators today,” says Eric Mader, assistant pollinator program director for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “Adopting the quality standards provides an immediate, meaningful, and long-term framework for protecting both crop yields and biodiversity.” Following the rollout of the rating system, Whole Foods is anticipating a ripple effect to occur within the grocery industry, with many other food retailers following the lead of Whole Foods’ efforts to reduce pesticide use in the food supply.

This new rating system is an addition of other rating systems Whole Foods has in place, such as its wild-caught seafood sustainability ratings, utilizing a color-coded system. Through their green, yellow, and red system, the company managed to eliminate all red-labeled fish, and no longer sells food caught from overfishing or through methods that harm marine life and habitats.

Whole Food Markets has long been an advocate for change when it comes to achieving higher sustainability and traceability standards. Recently, the grocer broke away from Chobani in an effort to free its shelves of food with genetically modified organisms (GMO) — a small part of a larger effort to enforce labeling on all products containing GMOs by 2018.

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