Bulk Product Standards
Our Bulk Department is the trifecta of a grocery shopping win: quality, savings, and convenience
Our bulk department is different than the ones found at other grocery stores and farmers markets. What makes it so different? We think it comes down to our commitment to quality.
First, all our bulk products are non-GMO and the majority (62%) are also certified organic. Organic is naturally non-GMO. Additionally, organic growing practices regenerate soil health, support a healthy ecosystem and economy. They are also grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Second, to maintain the quality of all the yummy organic and non-GMO bulk products we offer, they are all prepackaged and not sold out of bulk bins, so you don’t get a thousand hands inadvertently touching the food you’re about to take home to your kids — cough, sniffle, sneeze need we say more?
If we do say so ourselves, it’s a genius way to do bulk. Here you get bulk savings plus more savings since our everyday prices are already the best in town. And, you get choices on top of choices with our selection of close to 500 foods, including bulk herbs and spices, all with the sanitary convenience of regular groceries and every bit of it is non-GMO and 62% is organic!
You deserve the best, so we refrigerate our bulk nuts, seeds, and flours, to preserve freshness and stop rancidity before it starts.
Third, for quality reasons, we also refrigerate all our bulk nuts, seeds and flours that need it. We keep them refrigerated because we know the healthy fats and oils they naturally contain need colder temperatures to deliver optimal quality and freshness. We think you can taste the quality difference this makes. Once you go Natural Grocers’ bulk you’ll never go back to the bin!
Once a nut or seed is removed from its shell, or a grain is ground into flour, it exposes the healthy fats and oils in these products to air, heat and light, which causes rancidity — damage to the healthy fats and oils. Refrigeration slows this process down and keeps your nuts, seeds and flours free from rancidity longer. This longer shelf life also means you'll waste less and save more in the long run.
But what’s wrong with eating rancid nuts, seeds, and flours?
“At least two things,” says lipid specialist and University of Massachusetts professor Eric Decker. “One is that they lose their vitamins, but they also can develop potentially toxic compounds that have been linked to advanced aging, neurological disorders, heart disease and cancer.1 Not only do they lose their vitamins, but they also block the absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A, E and the carotenes, causing deficiency if too many rancid fats and oils are consumed."1
Additionally, “They’re carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic,” says integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil. “They are also widespread in the food chain.”1 In our opinion, one common place to find them, maybe the standard bulk bins.
Refrigerating our bulk nuts, seeds and flours does generate heat and we put that heat to good use by using it to help heat our stores during the winter. For more information on our green building practices click here.
We say NO to Propylene oxide (PPO). This chemical is frequently used to pasteurize almonds without disclosure.
Fourth, for quality reasons, all our single ingredient bulk almonds (conventional or organic) and the almonds used to make our world-famous bulk almond butter, are steam pasteurized. We also offer organic raw Spanish almonds, which have not been pasteurized in any way. They’re grown in Spain and thus aren’t required to be pasteurized.
In September 2007, the USDA began requiring that all almonds grown in the US and sold as raw be sanitized via pasteurization. This rule does not apply to imported almonds.
Currently, there are two main methods being used to pasteurize almonds. One uses steam to sanitize the nuts, while the other uses the chemical PPO, which is considered a probable human carcinogen.2,3 (Roasting and blanching are also acceptable methods for reducing potential contamination, and nuts processed by these means are not required to be pasteurized by one of the above methods.)
It is prohibited to use PPO to pasteurize organic almonds, thus all raw organic almonds grown in the US are steam pasteurized.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to know if conventional almonds are pasteurized with PPO or with steam. PPO is considered a processing aid and as such it’s not required to be listed on the ingredient label. Additionally, PPO pasteurization is less expensive than using steam, so is more likely the method of choice. All almonds grown in the US must be pasteurized, however, whether this is done using PPO or steam, the almonds are allowed to be labeled as raw and considered to be a raw food product.
We believe that everyone has the right to know how their food is processed and what substances are used in the processing, especially if they leave any residues and pose health and environmental concerns. The level of residue on almonds is not currently considered dangerous4, however, the chemical itself is damaging to the environment and poses a significant health concern to the workers who handle it during the pasteurization process.3
Currently, we cannot guarantee that all the conventional almonds in our non-organic, multi-ingredient bulk products are non-PPO, but we are working on it.
Our quality standards don’t stop here, for even more of a good thing, check out our additional bulk product standards:
Fifth, all our bulk whey protein powder is pasture based and meets our pasture-based dairy standards, there is a 100% grass fed option as well. This whey you can reap all the nutrition benefits of whey protein and know that you are doing good for the health of the environment, the health and welfare of the animals, and the health of the economy. Additionally, you don't have to worry about antibiotics, hormones and other growth promoters. (For more information on our pasture-based dairy standards, mosey on over to our Diary Standards page.)
Sixth, we have relationships with our suppliers because this builds trust all along the food chain and helps us maintain transparency. We know the quality we’re getting, and we know exactly what makes it quality, by reviewing our partners’ quality assurance programs, certifications, and certificates of analysis.
Seventh, we say NO to irradiation, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives, hydrogenated oils and other fake fats, high fructose corn syrup, fructose and sulfites in our bulk products. If you’re curious about the full list of food ingredients we don’t carry in our grocery and bulk selections, wander on over to our Things We Won’t Sell and Why page.
Eighth, we are Certified Organic Handlers. Our packaging facility is Certified Organic, meaning that we follow third-party regulated procedures to ensure the organic integrity of your food. We want to give you loads of options, which means we must handle many different products in one place. By being Certified Organic Handlers, we maintain the integrity of our organic bulk products.
Ninth, all our bulk bags are Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate free. Additionally, some of our bulk bags are made from recyclable plastic and we are working on making them all recyclable. As part of our commitment to sustainability, wind power is used to produce most of the plastic used in our bulk packaging. We believe in packaging with a purpose. Using prepackaged bags provides sanitary benefits as well as convenience. The bags are designed for optimal freshness and protection and some are also resealable.
4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website: Integrated Risk Information System: Propylene oxide (CASRN 75-56-9) (4 May 2007), < http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0403.htm>; "Almond Board of California Food Safety Document: Almond Pasteurization Using Propylene Oxide (PPO) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)," Almond Board of California (Oct 2004).