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.
Whole Foods Market became 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.
Under this program, CCOF verifies 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.
In addition, Whole Foods Market has announced a commitment to the Non-GMO Project’s third-party system for verifying that its private label products do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). The Product Verification Program (PVP) is the nation’s first system designed to scientifically test whether a product has met a set of defined standards for the presence of genetically engineered organisms, said Whole Foods.
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization, comprised of North American manufacturers, retailers, processors, distributors, farmers, seed breeders and consumers, dedicated to allowing consumers to make informed choices and to working toward the sustained availability of non-GMO options.
As much as 75 percent of processed food in the United States may contain components from genetically modified crops, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A Pew Initiative study on Food and Biotechnology shows that 59 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with the issue of genetically modified ingredients in food.
The non-GMO Project cites U.S. Dept. of Agriculture data showing 91 percent of soy and 73 percent of corn grown in the U.S. as being GMO as of 2007, and nearly all the sugar beet crop and about 75 percent of canola as now being GMO, reports Media Post.
The first Whole Foods private-label products with the seal are expected to be in stores before the end of the year, according to Media Post.
Earlier this year, Whole Foods announced a major energy program overhaul that more than triples the number of stores with solar panels, extends its commitment to offset 100 percent of its use of non-renewable electricity with wind energy, and reduces energy use.