The Texas-based retailer claims that its standard will ensure consumers are better informed particularly in light of the lack of official industry conventions in this market sector. The Premium Body Care standard will also serve to encourage the industry to formulate more natural products with higher standards, state the company. The standard will identify a selection of products available for sale in Whole Foods Market stores that contain the most natural and highest quality ingredients. Mild preservatives and surfactants Products awarded the standard must contain only the mildest of preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, that have been shown to function well but are less likely to cause allergic reactions, explain the company. Preservatives such as parabens and formaldehyde releasing compounds are not acceptable. Similarly, only mild surfactants such as decyl polyglucose and sodium stearoyl lactylate are allowed in products that will gain the standard. In terms of fragrance ingredients, the standard will only be awarded to products that use essential oils and components of essential oils, and only physical sunscreens such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are allowed. Help consumer decipher natural claims Despite the continuing popularity of natural and organic personal care and cosmetics products there remains a lack of respected independent certification bodies offering applicable standards. Consumers are bombarded with brands and products making natural claims, however there is often little to back up these claims. "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," said Jeremiah McElwee senior global Whole Body coordinator. The Whole Foods Market standard is billed as an alternative approach for Whole Foods customers, so that they can choose the personal care products offered by the store which contain the highest levels of natural ingredients. Making headway with certification Although the US has little in the way of certification opportunities, progress is being made. Last week a Canadian company Certech launched what it referred to as the first European-style standards for the North American market. The company offers both a natural and an organic standard like the French body Ecocert that has gained international popularity. In addition, NSF International is currently discussing standards, that if agreed upon, should be introduced late Spring.