By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact (Photo Credit: Davidson Read)
Whole Foods Market has announced that each of its 273 U.S. stores has been individually certified organic by CCOF, a non-profit, USDA-accredited third-party organic certifier.
“…It’s important for Whole Foods Market to maintain its certification as an organic retailer so our customers can trust that the organic food they choose has been sourced, stored, handled and marketed according to organic requirements,” said Joe Dickson, quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market.
Stores Must Be Certified Individually
After the USDA organic standards went into effect in 2002, a number of retailers voluntarily used a “group certification” model in which a certifier inspects a certain number of stores along with the overall company and its systems for monitoring compliance. Whole Foods Market was the first national chain to be certified under the USDA’s national organic standards in 2003. In November 2008, the USDA’s National Organic Program declared there could no longer be “group” certified stores and that each store must be certified individually.
“When we learned from the USDA that retail certification would become more challenging and comprehensive, our leadership unanimously decided to commit the resources to comply with the USDA’s enhanced guidance for retail certification,” said Margaret Wittenberg, vice-president of quality standards and public affairs for Whole Foods Market. “This program is such an important part of Whole Foods Market’s commitment to organic integrity.”
What The Certification Really Means
The certification does not mean that everything Whole Foods sells is organic. What it does ensure is that organic produce sold at the stores is actually quality organic produce.
CCOF verified that Whole Foods Market:
* Examines the current organic certification status of organic products;
* Maintains a record-keeping process that demonstrates an audit trail for organic products;
* Ensures organic products are appropriately protected from commingling with
conventional products and contamination with prohibited materials; and
* Trains store Team Members in handling practices for organic products.
One of my complaints with Whole Foods is how careful I have to be when shopping to only grab organic products, because much of what the sell is not organic. Personally, in addition to the above requirements, I would love to see a section set aside for the organic only produce or better signage to help shoppers be sure they are selecting only organic produce. Or better yet, how about a commitment to selling only organic produce?
Deborah Fleischer is the founder and president of Green Impact, providing strategic environmental consulting services to mid-sized companies and NGOs who want to launch a new green initiative or cross-sector collaboration, but lack the in-house capacity to get it up and running. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder partnerships and written communications. And you can follow her occasional tweet at GreenImpact.