Food Ingredient Quality Standards

We ban 300+ ingredients from all food that we sell, including hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.

image of bulk section

We believe that the best ingredients belong on your plate. That’s why we’ve banned hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin — along with more than 300 colors, preservatives, flavors and other ingredients from all of the food we sell in our stores. Seriously — from Berry Chantilly Cake in our bakery to the foods in our bulk bins, we want you to feel confident about what goes in your cart. If it doesn’t meet our standards, we won’t sell it.

Higher Food Ingredient Standards

From the first day we swung open our doors in September 1980, steadfast and selective have underpinned the attitude behind the standards of the products we sell — and love. When we review ingredients, we consider the interconnected effects of the way that food is processed and regulated by authorities in the U.S., EU, Canada and beyond. All of this happens before hitting our shelves and ultimately your plate.

The food industry evolves and changes rapidly, and we strive to respond by following emerging research and our customers’ expectations. Over the years, we’ve achieved some major milestones in what we restrict, including banning added MSG in 1992, hydrogenated oils in 2003 and high-fructose corn syrup in 2011.

Below are a few commonly used additives you won’t find in our stores.

Partially-Hydrogenated oils

Until recently, ingredients like margarine and shortening-baked goods (like pastries, pies, cookies and snack foods) often contained partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are chemically altered additives designed to improve texture and prolong shelf life — primarily in conventional processed foods. Studies have shown that the trans fats in partially hydrogenated oils raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, decrease HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. In 2015 the FDA released its final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not “generally recognized as safe”. As of January 1, 2020, manufacturers cannot add PHOs to foods. That’s been our stance for more than 15 years.

FD&C Colors

The Food and Drug Administration breaks color additives into two distinct categories. Exempt colors — most of which we permit — include pigments from sources such as vegetables, minerals and animals. Think dehydrated beets and grape skin extract.

The other category, certified color additives, are synthetic colors like FD&C Yellow No. 6 — which we do not permit — are the additives widely used for intense, uniform color and flexibility in making a variety of hues. These synthetics must undergo batch certification, whereby FDA chemists test composition to ensure they do not contain impurities at levels that post a health concern. Color additives subject to certification are typically made from raw materials obtained from petroleum.


Shelf life — that’s the primary reason preservatives are added to foods. Canning, heating, pasteurizing, drying and pickling are all ways to preserve food. We also allow certain added preservatives like citric acid and cultured dextrose. Preservatives undergo consideration on a case-by-case basis, weighing the benefits and drawbacks.

For example, we allow sulfites in wines, where they may be present naturally in the grapes, or are added to ensure longevity in the bottle. We do not allow sulfites on dried fruits, where they're often used to prevent browning.


We have a long history of working to ban sweeteners from food we sell in our stores. Aspartame, for one. When aspartame was approved by the FDA for food, we looked at technical information and considered our customers’ expectations. Based on that research, we added aspartame to our list of unacceptable ingredients for food, and here are some other sweeteners we ban:

  • Acesulfame-K
  • Advantame
  • Allulose
  • Aspartame-acesulfame salt
  • Cyclamates (not available at other grocery retailers in the U.S. since it is prohibited in U.S. by FDA)
  • Neohesperidine dihydrochalcone
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose


A staple baking item that shouldn’t be overlooked, many all-purpose white flours are bleached with benzoyl peroxide or bromated with the addition of potassium bromate. These agents chemically age and strengthen gluten, and increase the rise and elasticity of dough. We don’t think it’s necessary, just a shortcut. Humans have been baking great things with unbromated flour for millennia. While a definitive finding on health risks is yet to be reached, bromate is currently banned in the EU and Canada, among other places.

Ingredients We Don’t Allow in Our Food

The list of no-gos. It can be a difficult process, and the answers are not always easy, but we know our food ingredient standards are part of how we’ve changed the way food is grown, raised, processed and experienced around the world.

Below are many of the ingredients we've banned.

Banned Ingredients

2,4,5-trihydroxybutyrophenone (THBP)



acetoin (synthetic)

acetone peroxides

acetylated esters of mono- and diglycerides

activated charcoal


alkanna tinctoria


aluminum ammonium sulfate

aluminum potassium sulfate

aluminum starch octenylsuccinate

aluminum sulfate

ammonium alum

ammonium chloride

ammonium saccharin

ammonium sulfate

apricot kernel/extract


azo dyes


Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2

Bacillus coagulans ProDURA UABc-20




benzoic acid


benzoyl peroxide

benzyl alcohol

Benzyl benzoate


BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

black soldier fly

bleached flour

blessed thistle

bromated flour

brominated vegetable oil

burnt alum


bryonia root

caffeine (extended release)

calcium benzoate

calcium bromate

calcium disodium EDTA

calcium peroxide

calcium propionate

calcium saccharin

calcium sorbate

calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate





certified colors

charcoal powder

Citrus Red No. 2




diacetyl (synthetic)

dimethyl silicone


dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS)

disodium 5'-ribonucleotides

disodium calcium EDTA

disodium dihydrogen EDTA

disodium EDTA

disodium guanylate

disodium inosinate

disodium iron EDTA

dodecyl gallate




ethyl acrylate (synthetic)

ethyl vanillin (synthetic)

ethylene glycol

eugenyl methyl ether (synthetic)

FD&C Blue No. 1

FD&C Blue No. 2

FD&C Colors

FD&C Green No. 3

FD&C Red No. 3

FD&C Red No. 40

FD&C Yellow No. 5

FD&C Yellow No. 6

foie gras

gamma aminobutyric acid

gardenia blue

Garcinia cambogia

Ginkgo biloba


gold/gold leaf

Grapefruit seed extract

Hawaiian black salt

He shou wu


hexa-, hepta- and octa-esters of sucrose

highly branched cyclic dextrin

high-fructose corn syrup/HFCS


hydrogenated oils

inosine monophosphate

insect Flour

iron oxide

kava/kava kava

lactic acid esters of monoglycerides

lactylated esters of mono- and diglycerides

ma huang

magnesium lactate

mechanically separated meat


methyl silicon


microparticularized whey protein derived fat substitute

monoammonium glutamate

monopotassium glutamate

monosodium glutamate

mucuna pruriens

myrcene (synthetic)

Nature identical flavors

natamycin (okay in cheese-rind wax)


nitrites (synthetic)

octyl gallate


Orange B

partially hydrogenated oils

plant sterols




potassium alum

potassium benzoate

potassium bisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)

potassium bromate

potassium metabisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)

potassium nitrate

potassium nitrite

potassium propionate

potassium sorbate

propane-1,2-Diol esters of fatty acids


propionic acid

propyl gallate

propylene glycol esters of fatty acids

propylene glycol mono- and diesters of fats and fatty acids

propylene oxide


pulegone (synthetic)

pyridine (synthetic)


saccharin sodium salt

salatrim (short and long chain acyl triglyceride molecule)

shark cartilage

smoke flavor (synthetic)

sodium acid sulfate

sodium alum

sodium aluminum phosphate

sodium aluminum sulfate

sodium benzoate

sodium bisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)

sodium cyclamate

sodium diacetate

sodium lauryl sulfate

sodium metabisulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)

sodium nitrate/nitrite (synthetic)

sodium propionate

sodium saccharin

sodium sorbate

sodium stearoyl lactylate

sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate

sodium sulfite (okay in wine, mead, cider)

sorbic acid

soy leghemoglobin

stannous chloride




sucrose acetate isobutyrate

sucrose ester

sucrose polyester

sulfites (okay in wine, mead, cider)

sulfur dioxide (okay in wine, mead, cider)

synthetic caffeine

TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)

tetrasodium EDTA

thiodipropionic acid


tonka bean/extract

vanillin (synthetic)

whale oil

Note to product suppliers: This list is intended for our shoppers. It’s not for use in formulating products as it doesn’t include all Whole Foods Market requirements and ingredient restrictions. Creating a product with no unacceptable ingredients does not guarantee that we will sell it.

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