BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, U.S. — The ubiquitous black-and-gold Whole Grain Stamp has reached a new milestone: It now appears on 5,000 products on grocery shelves around the world, the Whole Grains Council (WGC) announced on March 29.

The number of products sporting the stamp, administered by WGC and Oldways, has jumped 25% in nine months, from 4,000 products in July 2010.

"The rapid growth of the Whole Grain Stamp signifies that whole grains really are the new norm for consumers, and the Stamp makes it easy for them to find significant sources of whole grain in products," said Kara Berrini, Oldways and WGC program manager. "We'd like to applaud the food industry, including all our Whole Grains Council members, as well as our scientific and culinary advisors, for helping move the science, palatability, and availability of whole grains to a whole new level."

Part of the accelerated growth is due to international interest in the stamp. The Whole Grain Stamp is now found on store shelves in 22 countries, having spread to Canada, throughout Central and South America from Mexico to Argentina, to the U.K. and Ireland, and as far and wide as New Zealand and China.

"A decade ago, whole grains were almost unknown in many countries," said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for Oldways and WGC. "And yet today, brown rice is gaining a foothold in China and Japan; whole grain pasta is becoming commonplace in Italian supermarkets; and a Mexican company is one of the driving forces bringing whole grain breads to Latin America."

Health guidelines in countries around the world are including recommendations to consume whole grains at an increased rate, and the Stamp is quickly becoming an international standard. About 10% of the WGC's 275 members are based outside the U.S. and about 15% of products using the stamp are being sold outside the U.S.

China is one of the most recent countries to adopt the stamp as the government focuses on improved nutrition as a way to improve overall health, a reaction to the rising rates of chronic disease that are affecting many populations around the world.