5 years ago

Celebrating 10 years of our certified-organic produce departments

Bea James, our senior manager of organic, natural, health and wellness, explains what we do to ensure that all our organic produce meets the highest standards.

In addition to celebrating our 75th anniversary this year, we’re also celebrating another big milestone: We’ve had certified-organic produce departments for 10 years!

What is a certified-organic produce department?

This means we’re offering certified-organic produce that’s handled in a way only a certified-organic store can guarantee. We’re selling certified-organic produce in a certified-organic department, making our organic produce handled with extra organic TLC. Pretty cool for all us organic food geeks!

Certifying our produce departments as organic has been our guarantee for the past 10 years that we’re maintaining the integrity of the organic farmer and making sure their hard work is valued and maintained from farm to fork. Each year every one of our stores is inspected by an accredited USDA third-party organic inspection agency to make sure we are indeed upholding organic handling regulations, and believe me, this is no easy feat.

Here are just a few of the processes that our produce departments must follow:

  • Verification
    We require a copy of the organic certificate from the farm for each and every organic produce item that’s sold. These certificates are kept on file and updated annually. This guarantees the organic produce our customers buy is from inspected organic farms that are growing and handling their organic produce according to the strict National Organic Program standards.
  • Storage
    Every store clearly designates storage areas for organic produce in each cooler and back room. By separating organic and conventional produce the possibility of conventional produce mixing with organic is eliminated. It also minimizes the risk of an organic produce item being merchandised as conventional. Separation is critical so that comingling of organic and conventional is eliminated.
  • Handling and Preparation
    All of our organic produce is washed, but never with conventional produce. Separate cutting boards and knives for organic produce are used and designated for organic produce only. After the organic produce is washed, it’s then stored in clearly labeled organic storage bins and kept in its respective organic area. This assures there will be no mix-ups in the washing, prepping or storage of organic produce.
  • Inspection
    In order for us to receive and maintain our certification we have to adhere to strict USDA National Organic Program regulations for organic handling. Each year we spend seemingly countless hours collecting and submitting documentation and opening every store to yearly on-site inspections.

I invite you to select your organic produce with confidence knowing that you’re getting the best in organic quality and authenticity. Every one of our stores offers more than 100 varieties daily, so I know you will find something organically delicious. Our educated produce managers would love to answer your organic questions and guide you towards many organic selections. It’s easy – just look for the USDA organic seal that’s been a part of our produce departments for the last 10 years!