Whole Foods Meets with Suppliers on Responsibly Grown Three-Tier Program
- by Jordan Okumura
AUSTIN, TX - Following a series of meetings with produce and floral suppliers, Whole Foods has announced even further changes to its much talked about Responsibly Grown Rating System.
Whole Foods did catch some flack from organic farmers when its program was first introduced, with growers voicing concerns that receiving a “Good” or “Better” rating when some conventional farms were rated at “Best” devalued the complex structure required by the USDA to adhere to certified organic growing. Those concerns were heard by Whole Foods, leading to adjustments first last July, and again now with a new commitment to revamp the system in 2016.
“When we launched Responsibly Grown, our goal was to create a dynamic rating system we could continuously improve with our suppliers to best address the most critical issues in agriculture,” Liz Burkhart, Sr. Media Relations Specialist explained to me in an email. “Our suppliers have played a key role in helping to strengthen the program, and these meetings offered a great opportunity to continue our dialogue.”
Here are a few adjustments Whole Foods will be making to its Responsibly Grown Program, according to the company’s website:
- All "Good", "Better" and "Best" Responsibly Grown rating logos will be removed. A single Responsibly Grown rating will be the new standard by March 31, of this year.
- Updates to Whole Foods’ list of prohibited pesticide list are being made following the company’s pesticide policy of “[updating] as needed to ensure continuous improvement in pesticide risk reduction.” These will go into effect early next calendar year.
- All USDA’s Certified Organic produce and flowers at Whole Foods Market are now being granted a Responsibly Grown rating until Jan. 1, 2017, to allow Certified Organic growers more time to become rated under the program.
- Whole Foods is automatically awarding all Certified Organic products with additional points within the rating system. While the retailer has always awarded Certified Organic growers with automatic points and exemptions for their compliance with the National Organic Program (NOP) Standards, they have since added additional areas of overlap for which Certified Organic growers will be rewarded with automatic points.
- Whole Foods are adding support and training to help our growers through the onboarding process and new food safety regulations and traceability requirements.
“We greatly appreciate their contributions to the program and are energized to continue working to provide deeper transparency on the issues you, our customers, care about,” said Edmund LaMacchia, Global Vice President of Perishable Purchasing in a blog post about the company's work with suppliers. “We will share more updates with you as we continue to enhance our Responsibly Grown program for fresh flowers and produce.”
As Whole Foods continues to develop it’s Responsibly Grown rating system, check back with AndNowUKnow for updates.