Article by: Underground Formulator
As I mentioned in my previous post on the Whole Foods Unacceptable list, I was able to get in touch with the person in charge of creating this list for Whole Foods. It was a nice conversation and we were both able to explain our positions about the list. She also explained how the list was created. It has been a while since we spoke, but I’ll try to recall to the best of my ability the key points. I know she’s reading the blog and can also comment if I get anything wrong. I also went the other route and put the question about betaine inconsistencies to their customer service group. I’ll start by posting the canned response from them:
We do allow betaines as part of our Premium Body Care standard, so long as the supplier is able to provide documentation showing that these ingredients are made from a renewable source. In general, the process of crafting Premium Body Care entailed evaluating the personal care ingredients on our shelves one by one, screening them for their source, safety, environmental impact, and efficacy. Premium Body Care is unique to Whole Foods Market, and each ingredient has a rationale for its status.
For additional information, please see: Premium Body Care Standards
Basically, the list was created by taking every product in body care and reviewing the LOIs ingredient-by-ingredient. From there, they made a spreadsheet and made a call on every ingredient. It should be noted the person I spoke to was a nutritionist, not a chemist. She did inform me they consulted actual chemists when making the list. They also are under pressure from non-science based watchdog organizations like the Environmental Working Group, and considered their ratings when deciding what would or would not be acceptable. I was forwarded the full list with every reviewed ingredient. The list on their website is just the ones that were labeled “unacceptable”. When I brought up inconsistencies on certain things that I already mentioned in my previous posts here, here & here, the best answer I got was they made a judgment call.
Premium Body Care vs Body Care
I was also reminded that products can be formulated with the ingredients as long as they meet the lower standard, they just don’t get the “Premium Body Care” designation. I said I know of no formulators making products that don’t conform to the Premium standard. Why would they?
I also brought up that they went out of their way to call out products that were just plain spelled wrong and put them on the list (e.g. Thiotic Acid), yet they are allowing products on the shelf that have ingredients listings with things like “organic coconut oil” and “organic rosemary extract”. Once you say the word organic on a label it no longer conforms to the INCI designation. I didn’t get a good answer for this question. I hope they address this with their suppliers in the future. Honestly I don’t know if they know it’s wrong or look the other way because they like the word “organic”.
Overall, the impression I got was they did not set out to make this list with their suppliers in mind. This was more intended for their consumers. I explained that in making the list they made a huge impact at their suppliers making them reformulate products that were otherwise safe and effective. The recent post here about J&J changing their formula could have been kicked off by this list. I believe in removing the formaldehyde it would be acceptable for Whole Foods now.
I got a bit off track with the actual contact with Whole Foods people, but next week I’ll be back with more inconsistencies on the list and see if we can keep the dialogue going.