Whole Foods Obtains Organic Certification for All U.S. Stores

Whole Foods Market yesterday announced that it each of its 273 U.S. stores has been individually certified organic by CCOF, a non-profit, U.S. Department of Agriculture accredited third-party certifier established in 1973.

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market yesterday announced that it each of its 273 U.S. stores has been individually certified organic by CCOF, a non-profit, U.S. Department of Agriculture accredited third-party certifier established in 1973.

In 2003, Whole Foods became the first national chain to be certified under the USDA’s national organic standards for “group certification." Under group certification rules for retailers, certifiers were required to inspect a limited number of a chain's stores, along with a chain’s plans for monitoring and compliance. The USDA’s National Organic Program announced in November 2008 that it would make retail certification a more rigorous process, and that it would no longer allow group certification.

"When we learned from the USDA that retail certification would become more challenging and comprehensive, our leadership unanimously decided to commit the resources to comply with the USDA's enhanced guidance for retail certification," Margaret Wittenberg, vice-president of quality standards and public affairs for Whole Foods Market said in a release. "This program is such an important part of Whole Foods Market's commitment to organic integrity."

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, according to the announcement.

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