AUSTIN, Texas, Feb 29, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- In response to growing consumer interest and confusion about natural personal care products, Whole Foods Market, the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket, has developed a new Premium Body Care standard and labeling seal of approval, setting a new industry benchmark. The new standard raises the bar for defining quality natural personal care and helps consumers decipher which body care products in its Whole Body(TM) departments contain the most natural and highest quality ingredients.

"Personal care products are not regulated like food in this country so there are currently no consistent standards for them laid forth by any governing body. Customers have been bombarded with brands and products claiming to be 'natural,' which can be confusing," said Jeremiah McElwee, senior global Whole Body coordinator. "Our goal is to provide an alternative approach for our customers, so they know that when they see the Premium Body Care seal they are getting safer, higher quality personal care products. We invite shoppers to look for the new seal, which can be found on nearly 1,200 products in our Whole Body departments."

With nearly 28 years of experience in selling natural and organic products, Whole Foods Market's quality standards for personal care already differentiate the natural and organic retailer in the marketplace -- each product found in its Whole Body departments is carefully evaluated and never tested on animals. The Company's new seal of approval will identify products that meet the Premium Body Care standard, which do not contain ingredients such as parabens, polypropylene and polyethylene glycols, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates.

A variety of products found in Whole Body at Whole Foods Market already meet the Premium Body Care standard and will now include the new seal on its packaging. "When considering new body care products moving forward, we will focus on select products that meet the Company's new Premium Body Care standard," added McElwee.

"Since what goes on the body also goes into the body, safety is primary for the Premium Body Care standard," said Jody Villecco, quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market. "We meticulously examined every personal care ingredient, using the most current research and resources to evaluate products in key areas of safety, naturalness, efficacy, environmental impact and labeling. Our research revealed that healthier and safer alternatives to many of the conventional body care ingredients are a viable option."

In developing the Premium Body Care standard, Whole Foods Market worked with chemists and body care experts for more than two years, reviewing body care ingredients and labeling information. As a result, all products bearing the Premium Body Care seal are made with ingredients necessary for them to function well. And, importantly, they contain ingredients that are minimally processed so they have as little impact as possible on the environment during manufacturing and when the products are used.
Key highlights of the new Premium Body Care standard include:
-- Preservatives -- While few are truly benign, some are necessary in body
care products, especially water-based products. The Premium Body Care
standard allows only milder preservatives that are shown to function
properly -- such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate -- yet have a
lower likelihood of causing cosmetic-related allergies and
sensitivities. Parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (i.e.
diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin) are unacceptable.
-- Surfactants -- Used for cleaning, degreasing, emulsifying, conditioning
and creating foam, these ingredients often irritate the skin and can
remove essential fatty acids. The Premium Body Care standard allows
only the most gentle types available, including decyl polyglucose and
sodium stearoyl lactylate.
-- Fragrance -- Only natural essential oils and components of natural
essential oils are allowed as fragrances.
-- Sunscreen -- Only physical sunscreen, such as zinc oxide or titanium
dioxide as better alternatives to those containing chemical sunscreens,
such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate.

The Premium Body Care standard was created to be effective, fair and attainable with the goal of encouraging the body care industry to formulate more products with higher standards.

"We strongly support the efforts of Whole Foods Market to create and continuously improve its Whole Body Premium standard. This important new tool will help consumers choose safer, more environmentally friendly body care products," said Stacy Malkan, spokesperson for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the book Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.

"The Premium Body Care standard is a starting point and an opportunity to raise the bar even higher for the natural products industry," McElwee said. "With new information and higher quality ingredients, we make it easy for our shoppers to identify and select the best products out there."

About Whole Body at Whole Foods Market
The quality of body care products and wellness supplements is as important as the quality of food at Whole Foods Market. The Whole Body department offers a wide selection of personal care items in addition to nutritional supplements and vitamins -- all made of the highest ingredients and free of unnecessary, harsh chemicals and ingredients such as fillers. Whole Foods Market's quality standards for body care products include carefully evaluating each and every product sold; featuring products that are free from artificial preservatives, colors and sweeteners; providing body care products that are proven to be safe without the use of animal testing; and providing food and nutritional products that support health and well-being.

About Whole Foods Market(R)
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market ( http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com) is the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket and America's first national certified organic grocer. In fiscal year 2007, the company had sales of $6.6 billion and currently has more than 270 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"(TM) captures the company's mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Whole Foods Market, Fresh & Wild(TM), and Harry's Farmers Market(R) are trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP. Wild Oats(R) and Capers Community Market(TM) are trademarks owned by Wild Marks, Inc. Whole Foods Market employs more than 53,000 Team Members and has been ranked for 11 consecutive years as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by FORTUNE magazine.