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Whole Foods' new rating system to offer enhanced standards for fresh produce

Whole Foods Market will launch a comprehensive rating system for produce and flowers sold in its stores to help shoppers make more informed purchases, the company announced Sept. 26.

organicWhole Foods Market will present customers with a three-tier rating system throughout produce and floral departments."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," Edmund LaMacchia, global vice president of perishables for Austin, TX-based Whole Foods Market, said in a press release. "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."

Beginning 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
  • Ecosystems
  • Biodiversity
  • Waste, recycling and packaging
  • Energy
  • Climate

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," John Musser, owner of Tropic Trade, added in the press release. "It also rewards those growers who go beyond requirements not because they have to, but because they want to."

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.