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Food Ingredient Quality Standards

We ban 100+ ingredients from all food that we sell, including hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

image of bulk section

We believe that the best ingredients belong on your plate. That’s why we’ve banned hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin — along with more than 100 colors, preservatives, flavors and other ingredients from all of the food we sell in our stores. Seriously — from Berry Chantilly Cake in our bakery to the foods in our bulk bins , we want you to feel confident about what goes in your cart. If it doesn’t meet our standards, we won’t sell it.

Higher Food Ingredient Standards

From the first day we swung open our doors in September 1980, steadfast and selective have underpinned the attitude behind the standards of the products we sell — and love. When we review ingredients, we consider the interconnected effects of the way that food is processed and regulated by authorities in the U.S., EU, Canada and beyond. All of this happens before hitting our shelves and ultimately your plate.

The food industry evolves and changes rapidly, and we strive to respond by following emerging research and our customers’ expectations. Over the years, we’ve achieved some major milestones in what we restrict, including banning added MSG in 1992, hydrogenated oils in 2003 and high-fructose corn syrup in 2011.

Below are a few commonly used additives you won’t find in our stores.

Partially-Hydrogenated oils

Until recently, ingredients like margarine and shortening-baked goods (like pastries, pies, cookies and snack foods) often contained partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are chemically altered additives designed to improve texture and prolong shelf life — primarily in conventional processed foods. Studies have shown that the trans fats in partially hydrogenated oils raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, decrease HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. In 2015 the FDA released its final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not “generally recognized as safe”. As of January 1, 2020, manufacturers cannot add PHOs to foods. That’s been our stance for more than 15 years.

FD&C Colors

The Food and Drug Administration breaks color additives into two distinct categories. Exempt colors — most of which we permit — include pigments from sources such as vegetables, minerals and animals. Think dehydrated beets and grape skin extract.

The other category, certified color additives, are synthetic colors like FD&C Yellow No. 6 — which we do not permit — are the additives widely used for intense, uniform color and flexibility in making a variety of hues. These synthetics must undergo batch certification, whereby FDA chemists test composition to ensure they do not contain impurities at levels that post a health concern. Color additives subject to certification are typically made from raw materials obtained from petroleum.

Preservatives

Shelf life — that’s the primary reason preservatives are added to foods. Canning, heating, pasteurizing, drying and pickling are all ways to preserve food. We also allow certain added preservatives like citric acid and cultured dextrose. Preservatives undergo consideration on a case-by-case basis, weighing the benefits and drawbacks.

For example, we allow sulfites in wines, where they may be present naturally in the grapes, or are added to ensure longevity in the bottle. We do not allow sulfites on dried fruits, where they're often used to prevent browning.

Flour

A staple baking item that shouldn’t be overlooked, many all-purpose white flours are bleached with benzoyl peroxide or bromated with the addition of potassium bromate. These agents chemically age and strengthen gluten, and increase the rise and elasticity of dough. We don’t think it’s necessary, just a shortcut. Humans have been baking great things with unbromated flour for millennia. While a definitive finding on health risks is yet to be reached, bromate is currently banned in the EU and Canada, among other places.

Ingredients We Don’t Allow in Our Food

The list of no-gos. It can be a difficult process, and the answers are not always easy, but we know our food ingredient standards are part of how we’ve changed the way food is grown, raised, processed and experienced around the world.

  • 2,4,5-trihydroxybutyrophenone (THBP)
  • acesulfame-K
  • acetoin (synthetic)
  • acetone peroxides
  • acetylated esters of mono- and diglycerides
  • activated charcoal
  • advantame
  • aluminum ammonium sulfate
  • aluminum potassium sulfate
  • aluminum starch octenylsuccinate
  • aluminum sulfate
  • ammonium alum
  • ammonium chloride
  • ammonium saccharin
  • ammonium sulfate
  • apricot kernel/extract
  • artificial sweeteners
  • aspartame
  • azo dyes
  • azodicarbonamide
  • bacillus subtilis DE111
  • bacteriophage preparation
  • bentonite
  • benzoates
  • benzoic acid
  • benzophenone
  • benzoyl peroxide
  • benzyl alcohol
  • beta-cyclodextrin
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • bleached flour
  • bromated flour
  • brominated vegetable oil
  • burnt alum
  • butylparaben
  • caffeine (extended release)
  • calcium benzoate
  • calcium bromate
  • calcium disodium EDTA
  • calcium peroxide
  • calcium propionate
  • calcium saccharin
  • calcium sorbate
  • calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
  • canthaxanthin
  • caprocaprylobehenin
  • carmine
  • CBD/cannabidiol
  • certified colors
  • charcoal powder
  • Citrus Red No. 2
  • cochineal
  • DATEM
  • diacetyl (synthetic)
  • dimethyl Silicone
  • dimethylpolysiloxane
  • dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS)
  • disodium 5'-ribonucleotides
  • disodium calcium EDTA
  • disodium dihydrogen EDTA
  • disodium EDTA
  • disodium guanylate
  • disodium inosinate
  • dodecyl gallate
  • EDTA
  • erythrosine
  • ethoxyquin
  • ethyl acrylate (synthetic)
  • ethyl vanillin (synthetic)
  • ethylene glycol
  • ethylene oxide
  • eugenyl methyl ether (synthetic)
  • FD&C Blue No. 1
  • FD&C Blue No. 2
  • FD&C Colors
  • FD&C Green No. 3
  • FD&C Red No. 3
  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5
  • FD&C Yellow No. 6
  • foie gras
  • gardenia blue
  • GMP
  • gold/gold leaf
  • heptylparaben
  • hexa-, hepta- and octa-esters of sucrose
  • high-fructose corn syrup/HFCS
  • hjijiki
  • hydrogenated oils
  • inosine monophosphate
  • insect Flour
  • iron oxide
  • kava/kava kava
  • lactic acid esters of monoglycerides
  • lactylated esters of mono- and diglycerides
  • ma huang
  • methyl silicon
  • methylparaben
  • microparticularized whey protein derived fat substitute
  • monoammonium glutamate
  • monopotassium glutamate
  • monosodium glutamate
  • myrcene (synthetic)
  • natamycin (okay in cheese-rind wax)
  • neotame
  • nitrates (synthetic)
  • nitrites (synthetic)
  • octyl gallate
  • olestra
  • Orange B
  • partially hydrogenated oils
  • plant sterols
  • polydextrose
  • potassium alum
  • potassium benzoate
  • potassium bisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • potassium bromate
  • potassium metabisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • potassium nitrate
  • potassium nitrite
  • potassium propionate
  • potassium sorbate
  • propane-1,2-Diol esters of fatty acids
  • propionates
  • propionic acid
  • propyl gallate
  • propylene glycol esters of fatty acids
  • propylene oxide
  • propylparaben
  • pulegone (synthetic)
  • pyridine (synthetic)
  • saccharin
  • saccharin sodium salt
  • salatrim (short and long chain acyl triglyceride molecule)
  • shark cartilage
  • smoke flavor (synthetic)
  • sodium acid sulfate
  • sodium alum
  • sodium aluminum phosphate
  • sodium aluminum sulfate
  • sodium benzoate
  • sodium bisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • sodium cyclamate
  • sodium diacetate
  • sodium lauryl sulfate
  • sodium metabisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • sodium nitrate/nitrite (synthetic)
  • sodium propionate
  • sodium saccharin
  • sodium sorbate
  • sodium stearoyl lactylate
  • sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate
  • sodium sulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • sorbic acid
  • stannous chloride
  • succistearin
  • sucralose
  • sucroglycerides
  • sucrose acetate isobutyrate
  • sucrose ester
  • sucrose polyester
  • sulfites (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • sulfur dioxide (okay in wine, mead, cider)
  • TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)
  • tetrasodium EDTA
  • thiodipropionic acid
  • toluene
  • tonka bean/extract
  • vanillin (synthetic)

Note to product suppliers: This list is intended for our shoppers; it’s not for use in formulating products. Creating a product with no unacceptable ingredients does not guarantee that we will sell it.

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