AUSTIN, Texas (December 20, 2000) Whole Foods Market, Inc. (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's leading natural and organic food retailer, today hosted the USDA's announcement of new National Organic Standards at its recently opened central Washington, D.C. location.

The company, celebrating its 20th year of business, has played an integral part in the development of the standards as the first national food retailer invited to join the USDA advisory board and as a key member of the Organic Trade Association. Whole Foods Market works closely with hundreds of small and large organic farmers throughout the United States, in many cases helping to create the first market window for them.

The new USDA Organic Standards will, for the first time, ensure consistent national labeling of organically grown products and will create certification guidelines for organic crops, livestock and processed products. In addition to a uniform standard for organic food products, the USDA has established a national list of substances approved and prohibited for use in organic production and handling. The new national standard will be welcomed by many consumers and producers, since it replaces what has been a mix of numerous, varying and often confusing organic standards established by many state governments and private certification agencies.

“Until now, there had been little uniformity in standards and, therefore, no guarantee that 'organic' meant the same thing from state to state, or even locally from certifier to certifier,” said Larry Butler, owner of Boggy Creek Organic Farm in Austin, Texas. “We appreciate all the hard work Whole Foods Market has put into the standards development process and its support for our business,” said Butler.

The organic food industry is rapidly becoming “mainstream.” Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine expects that U.S. sales of organic food will surpass $7 billion this year. A recent FMI/Prevention Magazine research study found that 44 percent of all consumers had purchased some organic food in the previous six months.

Additionally, a recent Hartman Group study found that the reasons people typically buy organic foods are (in order of importance): health and nutrition, avoidance of chemicals, great taste, food safety and positive environmental impact. The same study found that 87 percent of the people who have not tried organic food products are willing to try them.

“The new standards mean consistency for the products that are certified 'organic,' which will provide peace of mind to organic food consumers,” said Margaret Wittenberg, Whole Foods Market's vice president of governmental and public affairs. “We're proud to have played an important role in shaping this legislation and in developing the organic food industry.”

Wittenberg recently served a five-year term as the sole retail representative on the USDA's National Organic Standards Board. She oversaw Whole Foods Market's commitment to consumer involvement in the standards development process through the creation of initiatives to educate them and to collect their ideas as input to the USDA.

“We make it easier for consumers to make informed choices and to pursue the lifestyle they seek by providing the largest selection of natural and organic food products available,” said John Mackey, founder, CEO and chairman of Whole Foods Market. “We have thousands of delicious items that come from local U.S. producers and around the world to satisfy food lovers who recognize that their consumption choices affect their health and that of our planet. In fact, people can enjoy a completely organic meal for Christmas and other festive seasons if they want to, from the appetizers to the beer and wine to the turkey to the vegetables to the dessert.”

Whole Foods Market was the first retailer to introduce a private label line featuring organic food products. Introduced in 1991, the “Whole Foods™” private label line includes items ranging from pasta sauces and salsas to biscotti and chocolate bars. “We are committed to playing a strong and active role in ensuring that our customers can opt for natural and pure ingredients,” said Lex Alexander, Whole Foods Market's vice president of product development.

Witnessing the success of its initial product line and responding to requests from parents, in 1998 the company launched “Whole Kids™,” the first retail line of 100-percent organic food products specifically for children. Applesauce and juice, peanut butter and macaroni & cheese are just a few of the items available. “We literally cannot create new organic kids products fast enough to satisfy demand for them,” said Alexander.

Except for the historical information herein, the matters discussed in the news release include forward-looking statements that may involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results may vary significantly based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, risks in product development, market acceptance of new products and continuing product demand, the impact of competitive products and pricing, changing economic conditions and other risk factors detailed in Whole Foods Market's most recent annual report and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Additional Quotes from Organic Farmers

“The Pavich Family Farms have been providing organically grown products to health-conscious consumers for nearly 30 years. In those early days of the industry, there weren't enough points of distribution to connect organic producers with organic consumers in a cost-effective manner, but then Whole Foods entered the industry with a model for success. They have allowed Middle America to benefit from the valuable contribution that organic farmers are making to the improvement of our health and our environment.”

Tom Pavich Pavich Family Farms, Terra Bella, California “Unlike previous statewide regulations, the new USDA standards will provide consumers with definite, uniform guidelines about the difference between products that are labeled certified organic, transitional organic and conventional across the country. These standards level the playing field for all organic growers and retailers, which allows the consumers to make their individual decisions about their food selections, leading to our success as agricultural producers.”

“These are difficult times for fruit growers, both organic and conventional. It has been a pleasure to work with a company, such as Whole Foods Market, that is genuinely concerned about offering the growers a fair price for their products to provide for their economic wellbeing.”

Craig Carson Riverview Orchard, Inc., Peshastin, Washington