The Philosophy Behind Our Standards

  • We believe you deserve high quality food and product choices.
  • We aim to maintain your trust by staying informed and aware about issues affecting food quality.
  • We value our community. We stay socially and environmentally conscious, support local brands, local organizations, and non-profits.
  • We focus on your well-being, providing you with healthy food and products that encourage a healthy lifestyle.
  • We like to stay transparent, current and informative – giving you the confidence to make the best choices as a customer.

Customer Empowerment

As a health conscious consumer, you like to stay up-to-date with your food and product information, making sure you’re aware of any potential purchasing risks that may impact you. At Ellwood Thompson’s, we strive to help you stay conscious and provide you with as many educational resources and shopping solutions we can. If we can’t find the right food or product option to meet your nutritional needs, we’ll still keep you informed, making sure you continue in the right direction without making any regretful purchases.

Advertising To Children/Unhealthy Products

Marketing unhealthy food to your children can put pressure on you as a parent, and is something we don’t practice at Ellwood Thompson’s. Studies have shown that food and beverage marketing practices strongly influence children’s food preferences and purchase requests. Younger children are especially vulnerable to the marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products that use brand mascots or media characters because they have difficulty distinguishing between advertising messages and factual information. Children develop emotional bond with brand mascots and media characters as if they were their personal friends. These relationships are based on attractiveness of the brand mascots and media characters, and they can influence children’s food choices and diet. Toys and games distract from honest food choices. They come with poor options like fries and sugary beverages. The meals we serve our children should be good food. At our grocery store, we’ve removed all products that are packaged to target your children through these kinds of ploys. Instead, we provide ways you can educate your children to help them build a nutritious diet and recognize the merits of a healthy lifestyle.

SOURCE: The Use of Brand Mascots and Media Characters: Opportunities for Responsible Food Marketing to Children. Healthy Eating Research

ARTICLE: WHO Europe Takes On Food Marketing To Children, Food Politics by Marion Nestle

Produce Free of Biosolids

We find it utterly horrible that the use of biosolids processed from sewage sludge, industrial chemical residues, and even human waste to fertilize produce is ignored by many grocery store chains. For us, ignorance is not an option – we take action to protect you from the health risks involved in consuming such produce. Our vendors give us a 100% guarantee that no piece of food sold in our produce department is fertilized using biosolids. It’s just another way we keep your health a top priority.

Non-GMO Policy

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. This manipulation of nature occurs in up to 90% of soybeans, corn, cotton, canola and sugar beets that are incorporated into our food without any government regulation or required labeling. We believe the unknown health risks of consuming genetically modified food are such that it’s our duty as your grocer to be cautious and demand better choices for you.

There are two names for H.R. 1599: The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 and Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. This act requires the labeling of genetically modified or genetically engineered foods you buy.

The natural label on food products has no legal definition or verification process and therefor can contain artificial coloring, flavor, or GMOs. Here at Ellwood’s, we check the list of ingredients for each and every product that comes through our door. Since GMO labeling was not enforced in the past, we were not aware that certain products with clean ingredient profiles, identified as natural, were being produced in part with genetic engineering. We are in the continual process of identifying any natural products that contain GMOs and either eliminating these products altogether, or replacing them with viable Non-GMO Project Certified or Organic options. Many companies we deal with are using NON-GMO ingredients awaiting certification. We will continue to support companies and producers in transition or awaiting certification. We believe in 100% transparency and encourage our customers to read product labels. We encourage our customers to buy products that are USDA Organic Certified, GMO free Certified or Certified Naturally Grown because all 3 standards will guarantee non-GMO status.

SOURCE: Non-GMO Project

For information on food labels, check out this YouTube of Jeff Novice. FILM HERE

Some of the most significant progress we have made in this area is as follows:

  • Ellwood Thompson’s contributed $1000 to support the California labeling bill in 2012.  (Proposition 37)
  • Produce Department: We only source produce that is certified organic or naturally grown therefore insuring no GMO’s or source from a farmer who will sign a statement stating they do not use GMO seeds.
  • Bulk Department: the bulk bins located along the wall are only USDA Organic Certified, therefore free of GMO’s
  • We supported the Virginia’s 2015 GMO Labeling bill with attention to and coverage by Kirk Schroder, Ellwood’s Food Advocate.
  • We post regularly on the Local Food Hub to educate regarding GMO’s perils.

The Deli

Healthy Oils

Cooking oils turn rancid when heated past their heat tolerance levels and are toxic to consume. Certain oils are processed with high-heat refining and, according to many experts, are already toxic when bottled for sale. Major natural food chains tend to allow these spoiled products to pass to their customers as they are cheap to cook with and better for their bottom line. We don’t let that happen to you.

At our deli, we only cook with:

  • Olive oil: organic, extra virgin, first cold pressed, unrefined and non-GMO
  • Coconut oil: organic, extra virgin, unrefined and non-GMO
  • Safflower/Sunflower Oil (made for cooking): organic, non-GMO, and high oleic acid.
  • Oil that is naturally refined using citric acid (from fruit) and never heated over 250 degrees.

These oils are healthy alternatives to the canola, corn, and soy oils commonly cooked with at other natural food chain delis. Make the comparison and see for yourself – the evidence is clear.

Locally Made & Prepared Foods

Ellwood Thompson’s offers you in-house and locally-prepared foods made fresh daily. We believe this is the only way to get you the true quality you deserve. We stay fresh as opposed to other natural food grocers who mass-prepare and ship their “homemade” food from large, regional processing kitchens to their multi-state chain stores. One of the benefits of being a small, independent business is our ability to monitor and control our food preparation and selection. The result is you having healthier, quality prepared foods. We’re certain you’ll notice a difference in freshness and flavor when compared to other grocer’s foods that are handled, packaged, and shipped from faraway kitchens. It’s our market’s signature approach and what differentiates us from those big box natural food chains.

Environmentally Friendly Plates & Utensils

Our prepared foods department uses only melamine-free, microwave safe plates. Melamine (or melamine formaldehyde) is a plastic resin that can be found in non-microwave safe dishware. When heated at high temperatures, it can crack, chip or break and release toxins into food. The traces of formaldehyde that can be found in ware made with melamine are a potent carcinogen that should definitely avoid. In addition to safe plates, we stock reusable metal silverware and reusable drinking cups for you. This way, when you have breakfast, lunch or dinner with us, you can have peace of mind knowing your health is never compromised.

Sweeteners In Our Prepared Foods

When necessary, we use honey, maple syrup, cane sugar or light brown sugar to sweeten sauces. Our raw agave is never applied as a sweetener but may be used lightly as an emulsifying agent along with honey in our vinaigrettes to help balance out acids, vinegars or heat. We never use refined sugars as sweeteners.

Local, Pasture-Raised Eggs

We will only use local, pasture-raised eggs from chickens that are fed non-GMO feed, in our prepared foods, whenever possible. If we are unable to source local, pasture-raised eggs, as an alternative we will carry organic, cage-free eggs.

The Products We Carry

No Factory-Farmed Dairy Products

Inhumane environments and practices are cruel and unconscionable ways of raising animals that go against our human values. We don’t waiver to cost-cutting arguments that put money over moral integrity.

No High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup is a commonly used, cheap, and concentrated sweetener foundin the ingredients of many mass-produced products. It has been connected to illnessessuch as heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, and tooth decay. You will not find high fructose corn syrup at Ellwood Thompson’s, as we absolutely refuse to carry products that contain this sweetener.

Non-Toxic Cleaners and Detergents Made with Plant-Based Ingredients

Several commercially available household cleaners and detergents contain toxic chemicals that pose a risk to your health if mishandled or misused. Since we wouldn’t want that happening, we like to provide you with only non-toxic cleaners and detergents made from safe, plant-based ingredients.

No Toxic Chemical Preservatives, Parabens or Fillers in our Body Care Products

Parabens are widely used preservatives found in many body care products. When present, they’re quickly absorbed and metabolized and have been linked to breast cancer in both men and women. They are just one example of the toxic chemical preservatives and fillers in loosely regulated body care products. At Ellwood Thompson’s, we review all body care products to make sure no product containing these chemicals enters our market or your system.

80% Recycled Paper Products Free of Chlorine and Bleach

Without recycling, the future of our planet and environment would be severely at risk. This makes it an obvious choice for Ellwood Thompson to primarily offer recycled, chlorine-free and bleach-free paper products that help keep your life clean of the toxins used in manufacturing.



Hydroponics is a technology for growing terrestrial plants with their roots in nutrient solutions (water with dissolved fertilizers) rather than soil. At Ellwood’s, we believe what inherently comes out of the soil, is grown under real sunlight and is exposed to rain from the sky, is nutritionally best. Hydroponic crops appear to be completely safe for consumption, however they lack the vitamins /minerals that healthy soil provides and they do not foster healthy soil.

Organic farmers like Dave Chapman who owns and runs Long Wind Farm in East Thetford, Vermont, say that eliminating soil from the process undermines the very basis of organic farming.

Absence of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is typically what comes to mind in a casual definition of organic. Furthermore, healthy farmers point out that organic farming is rooted in practices that promote healthy soil and focus on feeding the soil rather than the plants alone. This means not only cultivating successful crops, but also fostering a healthy growing environment by enhancing biological activity within the soil.

The idea, says Chapman, is that by “maintaining a high level of life in the soil, you don’t need to use pesticides and fungicides because the plans are healthy” and can fight pests and disease more effectively.

Source: If Your Veggies Weren’t Grown in Soil, Can They be Organic? Civil Eats.


Local Grower Rating Scale

This refers to family-owned farms located within 100 miles of our store that use no spray or low spray. Farms that use spray are recorded in our records, including a list of what sprays they use.

This refers to family-owned farms located within 100 miles of our store that practice organic and/or sustainable farming methods and natural (non-chemical) based fertilizers and insect control.

This refers to family-owned farms located within 100 miles of our store that are USDA Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown.

This refers to family-owned farms outside of our 100 mile radius, but within 300 miles. This still includes much of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

When you see an organic integrity pin, know that it is only placed on items that are 100% USDA Certified Organic, no exceptions.

This pin represents a grassroots alternative to certified organic. It is a non-profit organization offering certification tailored for small-scale, direct-market farmers and beekeepers using natural methods.


Meat & Seafood

Irradiation-Free Meat

Irradiation is a process used to kill bacteria found in meat products. Not only does irradiation give treated meats unnatural flavor and texture, it can also be used to mask unsanitary conditions in slaughterhouses leaving behind risks of E. Coli and Salmonella contamination. These diseases and others can be spread through the feces and urine that irradiation hides. We won’t sell you meat products exposed to irradiation…ever.

No Growth Hormones, No Antibiotics

Giving animals hormones to up their size and pumping them full of antibiotics to flush their system of bacteria is an upsetting and inhumane way to raise animals in unsanitary conditions. Evidence has proven that ingesting meat and fish raised using these practices is harmful. In our efforts to keep you safe from this type of food, we only purchase meat and fish from farmers who use humane practices to raise animals. This means no hormones and no antibiotics trickling into your body either.

No Nitrates, No Nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites are proven to be toxic to humans, yet many larger grocery store chains allow their use as meat-curing agents, washing away botulism and rancidity. It sounds sick because it really is sick. The consumption of nitrates by children has been known to lead to impairment in oxygen intake, which causes “blue baby syndrome.” Excessive consumption of nitrates and nitrites in adults has been linked with cancer, brain tumors, leukemia and nasopharyngeal. Suffice it to say, we stay far, far away from these chemicals.

No Factory-Farmed Meat Products

Just as we do not offer factory-farmed dairy products, we also do not offer factory-farmed meat products. We refuse to condone inhumane and cruel ways of animal raising practiced by companies who only focus on the bottom line of their ledger.

Sustainably-Farmed Fish

We support suppliers that use sustainable fish farming practices. These practices preserve the quality of fish and the continuation of their species, as it is shown that we humans are notably depleting the world’s fish supply. We want to be part of the solution, not encourage the problem.

Bakery & Cheese

No Bleached or Bromated Flours

Azodicarbonamide, chlorine dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are a few of the hazardous chemicals used to bleach flour, simply to provide foods with whiter colors. Potassium bromate is a category 2b carcinogen used in bromating – a process that improves the elasticity and rise of commercially-produced dough. The European Union prohibits the use of chlorine bromates and peroxides. In the UK and Canada, bromating has been banned.

Though our government has yet to ban these practices, we have already done so. The goods produced in our bakery are free of bleached and bromated flours. It does not, however, affect the deliciousness of our products.

No Dyes, Hormones, Stabilizers and Preservatives

We’ve brought the hammer down on the use of food dyes, growth hormones, preservatives, and stabilizers in the production of cheese. Food dyes contain harmful synthetic ingredients, growth hormones are harmful in and of themselves, and preservatives like potassium sorbate damage us at the expense of clearing mold and bacteria that would not be present in sanitarily produced cheese. The cheese at Ellwood Thompson’s is free of all of these things. We proudly promote good food made under natural means.

Local, Pasture-Raised Eggs

We will only use local, pasture-raised eggs from chickens that are fed non-GMO feed, in our bakery items, whenever possible. If we are unable to source local, pasture-raised eggs, as an alternative we will carry organic, cage-free eggs.

Beer & Wine

Transparent Ingredients

We take pride in providing you, our customer, only with the best quality products available, and that holds no less true with regards to our beer selection.  We insist on a higher standard than our competitors and do not carry inferior, mass-market beers that lean on substandard, filler ingredients including high fructose corn syrup and propylene glycol alginate to keep costs down. Instead, we sell beers made only from the purest ingredients, and which are free of synthetic additives, flavorings, colors or preservatives. Quality shows and We support local & transparent craft breweries such as Center of the Universe and Strangeways Brewing, organic craft breweries such as Bison Brewing and Peak Organic Brewing, and larger breweries such as Sierra Nevada that not only use superior, wholesome ingredients but are also transparent in their ingredients. Of course, the beers we carry not only have to be made from superior ingredients, they have to taste fantastic as well!

Supplements & Body Care

Fish Oil

We believe in having only the highest-quality tested fish oils. Our products are carefully selected to ensure purity, freshness, potency, bioavailability and sustainability. Every fish oil is required to be third party tested with a Certificate of Analysis through one or more of the following institutions:

Our Nourish Department’s list of banned ingredients can be found here.


Ellwood’s Choice is a classification of labels to help highlight products within a category that we have researched to be the healthiest and best tasting. We have spent time identifying and analyzing reputable sources as well as investigative food bloggers to help inform our decisions. We are looking for transparency in processes and ingredients, ingredient quality and sourcing, and eco-packaging. We avoid products that contain ingredients from our banned list especially products that contain harmful chemicals, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This program is a reflection of our values and standards and is in an effort to help you, our customer, make a better, more informed, healthier decision.


For a full list of our banned ingredients in food, click here.

Our Nourish Department’s list of banned ingredients can be found here.