Whole Foods to rate cleaning products

By Brian Gaar
Cox Newspapers / April 26, 2011

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AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market Inc. is implementing a rating system for household cleaning products, the latest effort by the natural foods grocer to enforce environmentally friendly standards on its suppliers.

The tiered system, which will assign red, orange, yellow, and green ratings, will take effect next year.

Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement, said Whole Foods has always had standards for its cleaning products, such as no animal testing. But over time, officials have become frustrated by a lack of transparency when it comes to products’ ingredients, he said.

The company commissioned a survey by Harris Interactive, which found that two-thirds of respondents thought that brands already disclose a complete list of ingredients on a product’s packaging.

In reality, few do, company officials said.

So Whole Foods decided to “put a stake in the ground,’’ Speirs said. “People should have a right to know what they’re buying and know every ingredient,’’ he said. “People already think that it’s happening, and it’s not.’’

Red-rated products do not meet the standard and will not be sold at Whole Foods

Under the new system, products cannot receive an orange rating if they have been tested on animals or have artificial colors.

They also cannot contain ingredients with “significant environmental or safety concerns, such as phosphates, chlorine, or preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde,’’ according to the company.

The yellow rating requires a more stringent set of standards, including no ingredients with “moderate environmental or safety concerns.’’

The highest rating, green, will be given to products with all natural ingredients and “no petroleum-derived ingredients.’’

By April 22, 2012 — next year’s Earth Day — every product sold by Whole Foods must be at least orange-rated, according to the company.

Speirs said the new system will revolutionize cleaning products.