Whole Foods Launches Cleaning Product Rating System

Mon May 2, 2011 10:13am EDT

Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI) is introducing its own rating system for cleaning products it sells in its stores - the Eco-Scale Rating System.

Whole Foods is also establishing standards for personal care products like shampoo. By June 1, those labeled "organic" must carry USDA's certified organic label or "made with organic" by NSF/ANSI 305. Three years ago, Whole Foods introduced its Premium Body Care Standard, a label applied to those products that meet its standards for quality sourcing, environmental impact, results and safety.

The cleaning products Eco-Scale Rating System will continue this trend in helping customers decipher among products. It uses a tiered, color-coded rating system that captures the environmental and sourcing standards each product meets.

The company will work with vendors to evaluate and independently audit every product in its cleaning category. Each product will be required to meet - at the very minimum - the new baseline "orange standard" by Earth Day, 2012. Red-rated products do not meet the Eco-Scale standards and will not be sold at Whole Foods Market.

All cleaning products sold at Whole Foods will have to list every ingredient on product packaging, and submit to third party audits to verify those ingredients before they'll be allowed on the shelf.

Although the U.S. FDA doesn't require cleaning products to have all ingredients listed on the label, about 73 percent of adults falsely believe they do, according to a Harris Interactive survey for Whole Foods.

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that about 84,000 chemicals used in consumer goods, including home cleaners, have not been tested to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety standards.

Orange-rated products must be third-party verified to meet these criteria:

No ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns, such as phosphates, chlorine, or preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde

No artificial colors

No animal testing

In addition to these criteria, Yellow-rated products must also meet:

No ingredients with moderate environmental or safety concerns, such as DEA, TEA or MEA surfactants (surface acting agents that can act as foaming agents) that have the potential to contain nitrosamines and other impurities

No synthetic thickeners made from non-renewable petroleum-derived sources

100 percent natural fragrances

Green-rated products represent the highest level - they meet all the orange and yellow criteria, and also contain only 100 percent natural ingredients with no petroleum-derived ingredients.

Photo by Herry Lawford/flickr/Creative Commons

Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business

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