(NaturalNews) The largest natural and organic retailer in the U.S. has taken a bold move that could make fruits and vegetables safer for everyone. Thanks in large part to the dedicated efforts of just one conscious man from North Carolina, Whole Foods Market has agreed to stop supplying "conventional" produce grown in fields containing so-called biosolids, or the waste residue leftover from sewage processing plants.
Believe it or not, conventional produce in the U.S. can be legally grown in soils treated with human waste solids. Besides the obvious presence of feces, these solids contain all sorts of contaminants including residues from pharmaceutical drugs, chemical solvents, pathogenic bacteria, and heavy metals. Each of these has the potential to be taken up by plants and deposited into the fruits and vegetables eaten by millions.
The assumption was that Whole Foods would never stock such produce, being a pillar of clean food an all. But Mario Ciasulli, a semi-retired engineer and home cook from North Carolina, made the startling discovery that Whole Foods has something of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to how its conventional produce is raised. Concerned that the chain's shoppers are being duped, Ciasulli pursued Whole Foods for an explanation.
According to an announcement by PR Watch, Ciasulli tried to open up a dialogue with Whole Foods management, urging a policy change to protect shoppers from potential contamination. Besides addressing issues concerning the price barriers for some to accessing certified organic produce, Ciasulli pointed out that Whole Foods customers currently have no way to know whether or not the conventional produce they buy was treated with biosludge, as none of the store's produce is labeled.
New standards to make Whole Foods produce among safest in nation
Whole Foods listened to Ciasulli's concerns, and in late 2013 announced a whole new set of standards for its produce and flowers. No longer will sewage sludge be allowed anywhere near Whole Foods' produce, explained a message from the company, and produce suppliers will now be required to comply with new core requirements to ensure safe and nutritious fare.
"Sewage sludge is created by all of the human waste flushed down the toilet and sinks -- which includes all the pharmaceutical residues from all the prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs taken by the men, women, and children in the city using the sewage system -- and all the material corporations flush down the drain, which can include industrial materials like solvents and other chemicals, plus medical waste," explains PR Watch about the nature of biosolids.
"The water is removed from the sludge, and it is heated to kill certain bacteria, but the heating of the sewage sludge does not remove dissolved metals like silver, flame retardants (which California recently listed as a carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent), and other chemicals that remain in the sewage sludge sprayed on the fields where some 'conventional' food crops are grown."
Reports indicate that Whole Foods will soon unveil a three-tier rating system that categorizes its produce and flowers as "good," "better," or "best." With the help of sustainable agriculture experts, Whole Foods plans to develop a science-based index to rate pest management practices, farmworker welfare, pollinator protection, water conservation and protection, soil health, ecosystem integrity, and various other factors.