Whole Foods Expands Farmed Seafood Standards

Whole Foods Expands Farmed Seafood Standards

Whole Foods Market is now requiring farmed seafood suppliers to track fish from hatchery to processing plant, protect sensitive habitats, monitor water quality and discontinue using a number of chemicals.

The new rules are part of updated standards released this week that farmed seafood vendors must comply with. The first set of standards for farmed salmon was enacted in June 2007, and the company released standards for shrimp and other finfish last month.

Whole Foods already prohibited antibiotics, growth hormones, preservatives such as sulfites, poultry and mammalian by-products in feed and genetically modified or cloned seafood.

Building on that, suppliers now have to avoid using toxic chemicals such as malachite green, an antiseptic banned in the U.S. but still used in other countries, and organophosphate pesticides.

Suppliers must also take steps to preserve sensitive habitats like wetlands, monitor water quality at their operations, source feed ingredients responsibly and be able to trace fish and shrimp from where they were hatched to where they were raised and processed.

"All of our standards require compliance. However, the consequences for a supplier of not meeting the standard will depend on the particular standard," said Carrie Brownstein, seafood quality standards coordinator. "Violating a standard such as the prohibition on antibiotics could result in Whole Foods Market not selling their products until they change their practices or dropping the supplier entirely. For some standards, suppliers may be given a little more time to implement corrective actions."

Finally, suppliers have to pass an audit by the Institute for Marketecology, an independent, third-party organization.

Whole Foods employees developed the standards based on two years of researching farmed fish, consulting with experts and visiting farms.

Although no single, widely-accepted standard for all farmed fish has been developed, the Global Aquaculture Alliance has created Best Aquaculture Practices standards for shrimp farms and hatcheries, channel catfish farms and seafood processing plants. The WWF is developing guidelines, expected to be released by the end of 2009, for salmon, shrimp, tilapia, panagasius, mollusk, catfish, abalone and trout.