KANSAS CITY — The trend of unacceptable ingredient lists began several years ago with Whole Foods Market being a pioneer. Now, many retailers, e-tailers and foodservice businesses have such lists that detail what ingredients they do not accept in products they offer.

The lists vary by company, and they can be confusing, even within one company’s list. Rachel Cheatham, PhD, chief executive officer and founder of Foodscape Group, pointed to Bubble Goods as an example. The online marketplace for healthy food, which ships products directly to consumers, has a “naughty” list and a “nice” list.

“It’s a bit of brilliance, and I think they’ll do really well,” Dr. Cheatham said Aug. 26 in the “Trends and Innovation Seminar,” a virtual event hosted by Food Business News.

It gets confusing when one finds out canola oil can be both nice and naughty.

Whole fruit, grains, vinegars, probiotics, nuts and seeds are some of the ingredients on the “nice” list for Bubble Foods. Canola oil qualifies as “nice,” too, since it is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of a canola plant and low in saturated fat.

The “naughty” list includes ingredients like cane sugar, molasses, brown sugar and … canola oil. Being heavily industrially produced and often genetically modified makes it “naughty.”

“These things happen, and I really am a fan of Bubble Goods, but it is a great example of where there’s just a lot of turmoil and confusion on many, many ingredients — canola oil being one of them,” Dr. Cheatham said of Bubble Goods. “I suspect that the science would land on the side of essentially positive for canola oil given that profile, but I also suspect on the consumer side of perception, canola oil does not sound as desirable.”

Dr. Cheatham also has some questions on the unacceptable ingredients found on the Whole Foods Market list, with apricot kernel being one.

“Now, I can imagine that if a consumer saw apricot extract on a label, they may not think that is too concerning, but lo and behold, it is on the unacceptable list, according to Whole Foods Market,” Dr. Cheatham said.

Plant sterols also were on the unacceptable list.

“Now as a nutritionist, I actually really like the sound of a plant sterol,” she said. “It helps us manage our cholesterol.”

Expect major variance among the unacceptable and nice/naughty lists, Dr. Cheatham said. Know targets and formulate accordingly.

“Know if they have lists,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you have to abide by them. You can change your retail strategy.

“They don’t always make sense, and sometimes there are some internal consistency challenges. It’s always evolving, but take the time to investigate those lists.”