Whole Foods' Guidelines for "Natural"

whole foods soap

As more and more companies try to get involved in the consumer movement toward organic skin products, a lack of regulatory standards for these products has allowed a wide variety of quality and labeling guidelines to spring up. A while back we wrote about USDA Guidelines for “Organic” and, in another post, about natural scenting and coloring, so today we’d like to focus on how one of the larger organic skin care providers – Whole Foods Market – uses similar ideas and standards to determine which products they will allow to be sold in their stores.

Because the non-existence of regulatory standards enables many companies to make false natural and organic claims about their products, Whole Foods created their own Premium & Organic Body Care Standards by which to judge potential goods.

Organic Body Care

Starting with the issue of which requirements must be met to use the word “Organic,” Whole Foods has based their labeling guidelines on those laid out by the USDA. Each step in the labeling of a product requires some sort of organic certification. Whole Foods breaks it down into four different categories:

  • Products making an “Organic” product claim: Must be certified to the USDA’s NOP standard for organic (>95%) products.
  • Products making a “Made with Organic _____” claim: Must be certified to the USDA’s NOP standard for Made With Organic (>70%) products.
  • Products making a “Contains Organic _____” claim: Must be certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 Organic Personal Care Standard.
  • Products listing an organic ingredient: Organic ingredient must be certified to the USDA NOP standard.

You can read the full description along with examples on the Whole Foods Blog.

Premium Body Care

Along with the organic standards, Whole Foods created what they call their “Premium Body Care Standards” which detail what ingredients they feel create a truly natural personal care product. They also created an “unacceptable” ingredients list of over 400 ingredients, some of which are parabens, polypropylene and polyethylene glycols, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates. Going further, they highlight three main ingredient categories that affect body care products and briefly mention their position on each. Whole Foods writes,

Preservatives are necessary in body care products, especially water-based products. Our Premium Body Care standard allows only milder preservatives. They must be shown to function properly, yet have a lower likelihood of causing cosmetic-related allergies and sensitivities.
Surfactants are used for cleaning, degreasing, emulsifying, conditioning and creating foam. They also remove essential fatty acids and may be irritating to the skin. Our Premium standard allows only the safest, most gentle types available.
Fragrance is a component that most people expect in premium products and, if naturally derived, may have aromatherapy benefits, as well. For philosophical and safety reasons, only natural essential oils and components of natural essential oils are allowed as fragrances in our Premium standard.“

What does it mean?

In the currently non-regulated area of organic products, many companies are realizing a need to develop their own requirements and standards to ensure consumers are actually getting what labels claim and benefiting from nutritious and safe ingredients. Whole Foods is a good example of a successful company that has created guidelines for what they feel makes a truly natural product and how it should be presented in their stores.

So, what does this mean for individuals? Well, if someone owns or is thinking about starting a skin care product line and hopes to get placed in Whole Foods Market, he or she should make sure they are familiar with and follow the Whole Foods Premium and Organic Body Care Standards to obtain the best positive recognition. As for consumers, you can rest assured that companies like Whole Foods are working hard to guarantee that you get the high-quality, natural skin care products you are looking for.

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