(July 7) AUSTIN, Texas — The world’s largest natural and organic supermarket chain has become the first national chain to have all of its stores organically certified.

All 144 of Austin-based Whole Foods Market’s stores have received the Certified Organic label.

The new U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program standards, implemented in October, do not require retail stores to receive certification.

“I think it shows them as a leader in the organic industry,” said Mark Mulcahy, president of Organic Options, a Glen Ellen, Calif., consulting firm that helps retailers prepare for the standards.

“This will help set the tone for other stores to follow.”

ACROSS THE BOARD

Whole Foods received the certification June 6 from Quality Assurance International, San Diego, a federally recognized third-party certification program. All of Whole Foods’ departments, not just the produce aisle, received the certification.

“It was a big undertaking,” said Margaret Wittenberg, Whole Foods’ vice president of marketing and public affairs.

ONE-YEAR EFFORT

The chain, which has stores in 25 states, the District of Columbia and Toronto, spent a year working with all of its departments, making sure store personnel understood the law and the operational matters required for the certification, Wittenberg said.

“Someone can self-assert what they’re doing, but we went through the process for the assurance of our customers and respect for the whole third-party certification process,” she said. “It’s another affirmation not only for consumers but also for the organic industry. We wanted to complete that chain of integrity until the consumer takes possession of the product.”