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Whole Foods to Rate Household Cleaning Products, Requires Full Disclosure for Products Sold

(Beyond Pesticides, April 27, 2011) Whole Foods Market has introduced its Eco-Scale™ Rating System – an industry-first set of tiered, green household cleaning standards – to help shoppers make smarter, greener choices. Product ingredients will be evaluated and those that do not meet the standards set, such as the antimicrobial triclosan, phosphates and phlalates, will not be sold at Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods Market is the first national retailer to provide its own comprehensive, color-coded rating system for household cleaners. Under the new evaluation system, products will be rated—red, orange, yellow or green—based on the specific set of environmental and sourcing standards each product meets. The company is committed to working 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.

Products rated Eco-Scale Green, the highest level of Whole Foods Market’s new standard, will contain no ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns and required to have full transparency, disclosure of ingredients on packaging by April 2012, and only 100% natural ingredients. Intermediate ratings include Eco-Scale Yellow and Orange and will also be required to have full disclosure of all ingredients. Eco-Scale Red products will not be sold. For more information on the rating system, visit Whole Foods Market Website.

Currently, the U.S. government does not mandate full disclosure of ingredients on cleaning products. Environmental advocates have urged Federal authorities for years to disclose all ingredients on product labels, especially inert ingredients. Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules that would allow for full disclosure of all ingredients in pesticide products. However, the agency has yet to make a final decision. Under the Eco-Scale Rating System, Whole Foods Market’s household cleaning vendors will be required to list every single ingredient on product packaging. To ensure compliance of the company’s strict standards, all products will be audited through an independent third-party for verification before they are color-rated and labeled on shelves.

“Shoppers have a right to know what’s actually in the products they use to clean their homes,” said Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods Market. “We’ve always carefully monitored ingredients. Now, with Eco-Scale, we’re able to help shoppers buy eco-friendly products with confidence and provide safer alternatives for their households and for the planet as a whole.”

A recent New York Times article touched on the marketing of the green version of products marketed by big name brands such as Clorox that have seen declining sales. Often, these products do not disclose all ingredients and contain some that are still hazardous to human health and the environment. Declining sales of these products indicate that consumers committed to green products are not taken in by the ‘greenwashing’ of major brands such as Arm & Hammer, Windex and Palmolive, but remain loyal to truly green product lines such as Seventh Generation which have seen their sales continue to grow. However, almost three out of four (73 percent) adults falsely believe that the government requires household cleaning products to provide a list of ingredients on the label, according to a Whole Foods Market survey conducted online in April among 2,483 U.S. adults aged 18+. Another two-thirds (64 percent) believe that many household cleaning brands opt to disclose the full list of ingredients on packaging, when, in fact, few provide this information on product labels.

The survey also confirmed that many adults understand that there are risks involved with common household cleaning products. When asked if they agree or disagree that common household cleaning products are not harmful to the environment, two-thirds (66%) disagreed. Chemicals found in many cleaning products can cause health problems, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches. Using green cleaning products and practices may avoid these health effects.

“With Eco-Scale, we’ll be able to offer more solutions for eco-conscious shoppers, and those with sensitive skin and allergy concerns who often reach for natural cleaners first,” said Mr. Speirs. “Now parents and pet owners can also rest assured that they know exactly what ingredients they are using in the company of their loved ones.”

Several national cleaning products have already been rated – from liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener to all purpose, glass and toilet bowl cleaners. The lineup includes 14 of Whole Foods Market’s store brand cleaning products, as well as a total of 34 products from natural cleaning brands Better for Life™, Ecover®, Greenshield™ and Method®.

Shoppers will ultimately, be able to easily identify products’ environmental impact and safety based on the red-orange-yellow-green color scale. The orange rating represents the baseline of acceptable standards that the yellow and green standards build on, with green labeled products topping the tier.

For more information on Whole Foods Market’s Eco-Scale including prohibited ingredients for each tier, visit: wholefoodsmarket.com/eco-scale.

Boston Globe
Whole Foods Market


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