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Whole Foods Update on Responsibly Grown Three-Tier Program with Matt Rogers, Global Produce Coordinator

Whole Foods Update on Responsibly Grown Three-Tier Program with Matt Rogers, Global Produce Coordinator

AUSTIN, TX - As Whole Foods continues its efforts to revamp the retailer’s Responsibly Grown Three-Tier Rating Program, the company is sharing its latest progress and highlights for the program thus far.

As we have previously reported, Whole Foods mapped out changes to the program since it was first introduced as growers voiced concerns over the “Good,” “Better,” or “Best” rating system which some thought devalued the complex structure required by the USDA to adhere to certified organic growing vs. conventional. Whole Foods is continuing to listen while keeping with that commitment to refine the program with these latest events and initiatives.

“Last year, we committed to providing more support and trainings for suppliers across the country to help them navigate our still new, online supplier review and approval process, and to understand new food safety regulations and traceability initiatives that are essential in our business together,” Matt Rogers Global Produce Coordinator for Whole Foods Market, tells me.

Rogers goes on to share that the company has done just that and then some, hosting 11 trainings across the country between January and April 2016 with a total of 450 attendees representing 340 fresh produce and floral suppliers.

“While sharing information about Responsibly Grown and our baseline supplier requirements were important parts of these trainings, we also brought in external experts to talk about the evolving produce business landscape including great presentations on Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) and food safety and the implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for small farmers,” Rogers says.

These training events were led by both Whole Foods Market team members along with industry experts from the Produce Marketing Association, FamilyFarmed.org, and IPM Institute.

As Whole Foods noted earlier this year, the company would be simplifying how the program appeared in stores by moving to a single Responsibly Grown rating logo in late spring. That change is now reflected in stores. 

Additional goals to the program are:

  • Updates to Whole Foods’ list of prohibited pesticide list are being made following the company’s pesticide policy of “[updating] as needed to ensure continuous improvement in pesticide risk reduction.” These will go into effect early next calendar year.
  • All USDA’s Certified Organic produce and flowers at Whole Foods Market are now being granted a Responsibly Grown rating until Jan. 1, 2017, to allow Certified Organic growers more time to become rated under the program.
  • Whole Foods is automatically awarding all Certified Organic products with additional points within the rating system. While the retailer has always awarded Certified Organic growers with automatic points and exemptions for their compliance with the National Organic Program (NOP) Standards, they have since added additional areas of overlap for which Certified Organic growers will be rewarded with automatic points.
  • Whole Foods are adding support and training to help our growers through the onboarding process and new food safety regulations and traceability requirements. 

Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we keep you updated on all things Whole Foods and the company's constant evolution. 

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