The moment we opened our first store in Austin, Texas, our goal was to offer products that we would buy ourselves. Which means, we’ve been banning icky ingredients since day one. And by continuing to cultivate strong relationships with like-minded farmers, suppliers and customers, we’ve all been able to make significant changes. Our Purpose: Nourish people and the planet.
40+ Years (and Counting) of Milestones
1980: Food Ingredient Standards on Day 1
Our first store opened selling food products with standards for colors, flavors and preservatives.
Today: We prohibit hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and 260+ preservatives, flavors, colors, artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and sucralose) and other ingredients from all food we sell.
1981: Banned Added Hormones in Meat
In addition, we prohibited the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics for all meat sold in our Meat department. And in 1997, we banned foie gras.
All fresh beef, chicken, pork, turkey, lamb and goat in our Meat department must be Global Animal Partnership Animal Welfare Certified.
1988: Beauty & Body Care Became Official
We launched formal ingredient standards for beauty and body care products, and in 1990, we officially prohibited animal testing.
Today: We ban more than 215+ commonly used ingredients, like parabens and phthalates.
1988: Banned Ingredients in Supplements
We formalized ingredient standards for supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbal formulas.
Today: Our standards prohibit more than 140 ingredients from all products with a Supplement Facts panel on the label. This includes protein shake mixes, energy drinks and more.
1989: We Dove In on Seafood Standards
We banned certain preservatives, such as phosphates and sulfites across our Seafood department.
Today: Our Seafood department only sells wild-caught seafood that is certified or rated for sustainability, and Responsibly Farmed seafood that is third-party verified. We don’t sell red-rated seafood unless it’s Marine Stewardship Council certified.
1990: Started Cleaner Household Cleaners
We prohibited animal testing for household cleaning products, and in 2012 launched enhanced standards for ingredients and labeling.
Today: Our standards ban more than 135 ingredients. Plus, we require performance testing and that all ingredients (except proprietary fragrance and enzyme blends) be listed on the label.
2003: Launched an Organic Industry-First
Whole Foods Market became the first certified organic national retailer, following the launch of the USDA’s National Organic Standards in 2002.
Today: We are the only certified organic national grocer, which means our stores are third-party inspected every year to ensure all departments follow steps for organic integrity. We also have labeling standards for organic body care in the absence of federal regulations.
2005: All Eggs Must Be Cage-Free
Our standards required all eggs in our Dairy department (and those we use in our own kitchens) to be cage-free.
Today: All eggs in our Dairy department must go beyond cage-free to meet our strict Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens.
2007: Launched Responsible Sourcing Program
We developed our Whole Trade Guarantee program to support workers, communities and the environment with third-party certifications of the farms where we sourced those products.
Today: Relaunched as Sourced for Good, our program also includes U.S. suppliers. Plus, for our Whole Foods Market and 365 by Whole Foods Market brands, all packaged coffee and tea is Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certified.
2008: Banned Single-Use Plastic Bags
We eliminated single-use plastic bags at the register. Previously, we’d changed all paper bags at the register to 100% post-consumer recycled-content paper.
Today: We’ve replaced plastic straws in our cafes and coffee bars with Forest Stewardship Council-certified recyclable and compostable paper straws and eliminated all Styrofoam meat packaging trays.
2013: GMO Labeling Gets Serious
We made our first commitment to GMO labeling transparency.
Today: Our policy requires third-party certification or verification of non-GMO claims on all products in our stores.
2018: Inaugurated Canned Tuna Standards
We launched sustainable canned tuna standards requiring all canned tuna on our grocery shelves to be certified or rated for sustainability, caught one-by-one and traceable to the boats.
Today: Our canned tuna standards also apply to our Prepared Foods department.
2021: On Forefront of Regenerative Ag
We piloted our regenerative agriculture label review process (full rollout in 2022) to help ensure that products making a claim on packaging in our stores actually support regenerative agriculture.
2022 and Beyond: Raising the Bar
Looking ahead, our focus includes packaging, food waste, animal welfare, transparency and sourcing of products at high risk for social welfare concerns.