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Ahold Delhaize USA to Reduce Its Chemical Footprint

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Ahold Delhaize USA to Reduce Its Chemical Footprint
Ahold Delhaize USA has also committed to participate in the Chemical Footprint Project in 2020 and publicly report annually on progress.

Ahold Delhaize USA has revealed a new “sustainable chemistry commitment that restricts toxic chemicals in the products it sells across its 2,000 stores nationwide.

The retailer said it will ban the classes of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenols, ortho-phthalates, and other chemicals.

The policy applies to its own branded products in the following categories: all grocery, baby food, and infant formula, as well as formulated laundry, home, personal care, cosmetic and baby products.

The company has also committed to participate in the Chemical Footprint Project in 2020 and to publicly report annually on its progress. Additionally, Ahold Delhaize USA has pledged to minimize the occurrence of toxic contaminants and to expand the disclosure of ingredients to consumers. However, the company hasn't fully disclosed its restricted substance list (RSL), nor has it set a clear public timeframe for implementing the restrictions.

“The great local brands of Ahold Delhaize USA are known for their close local and personal connections with customers and communities,” said Brittni Furrow, VP of sustainable retailing and healthy living for Ahold Delhaize USA. “Consumers indicate they want more transparent products for their families, made with ingredients they can feel good about. We’re pleased to launch this new commitment, which will bring more sustainable options, free from unwanted ingredients, to neighborhood grocery stores.”

The sustainable chemistry policy that each of Ahold Delhaize USA’s companies have adopted outlines sustainable chemistry practices across three key areas:

  • Restricting Chemicals of Concern. Ahold Delhaize USA’s companies will restrict the intentional use of chemicals of concern and place chemicals of concern, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), Bisphenol A (BPAs), Phthalates and more on a restricted substance list for a full range of private brand products. The restricted list will cover both private brand products and food packaging for these products and work will focus on ensuring more sustainable substitutes for chemicals of concern are used. 
  • Verifying Chemicals of High Priority are Removed. Ahold Delhaize USA’s companies will expand supplier testing requirements beginning in 2020 to confirm that priority products meet its high standards, beyond what is required by U.S. law, for potential chemicals of concern. Ahold Delhaize USA and its local brands are committed to using credible certification programs that further address priority materials for coffee, tea and cocoa products with Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade or organic programs. 
  • Collaborating with Suppliers to Address Root Causes of Contaminants. Ahold Delhaize USA and its local brands will partner with suppliers, agricultural producers and external organizations to research and act to minimize the occurrence of potential contaminants of concern in finished products and to advance greener chemistry options. Additionally, the companies are expanding product ingredient information provided to consumers, beyond what is required by law, to support the selection of trusted brands and products.

The company is the fourth-largest dedicated grocery chain in the United States, with more than 2,000 stores and distribution centers across 23 states. Ahold Delhaize USA’s banners include Food Lion, Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Hannaford, and Stop & Shop, as well as the online grocer Peapod.

“These commitments will help drive the creation of a more sustainable and healthy food and product supply for Ahold Delhaize USA’s customers, while increasing pressure on its competitors to do the same," said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director at Washington, D.C.-based Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, a nationwide coalition of organizations and businesses. "We encourage the company to take the next step by fully disclosing its restricted substance list and setting a clear public timeline for reducing and eliminating these and other toxic chemicals in both private-label and brand-name products. Other top grocery retailers like Kroger, Albertsons and Publix should join them in driving toxic chemicals like PFAS out of food packaging.” 

A 2018 report published by the Mind the Store campaign, which challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute safer alternatives, and Seattle-based advocacy group Toxic-Free Future found the likely presence of PFAS in some store-brand products and packaging at Ahold Delhaize USA, Albertsons, Kroger and Whole Foods Market. This move by Ahold Delhaize USA comes at a time when similar retailers are increasingly adopting safer chemicals policies to reduce and eliminate harmful chemicals. Last year, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both announced steps to eliminate  PFAS in food packaging.

Ahold Delhaize USA’s new policy commitment comes just two months before the release of the 2019 “Who’s Minding the Store?” Retailer Report Card, which benchmarks retailers on their safer chemicals policies and implementation programs. Ahold Delhaize had received letter grades of F in both 2017 and 2018.  

Also, a coalition of more than 60 organizations across the country have sent a letter to Albertsons urging it also to take action on PFAS in its supply chain. Albertsons recently disclosed that it has begun to take action, noting that it “[w]orked with industry experts and replaced certain prepared food and bakery product packaging to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”

Meanwhile, states and localities are moving to phase out classes of toxic chemicals such as PFAS and phthalates. Over the past year, both Maine and Washington have enacted bans on PFAS in food packaging. The country of Denmark also recently rolled out a ban on PFAS in food packaging.

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