Behind the label: Decoding certifications in the shopping aisle
(BPT) - When we visit the grocery store, we’ve become accustomed to a dizzying array of options. There are labels touting everything from food safety to environmental and ethical standards. Making the best decision for your family, your health and the good of the planet is important, but how can you possibly keep track of what all these labels really mean?
Voting with your wallet
Today’s wired world allows us to be more conscious of the impacts of our choices than ever before. Shopping isn’t just about putting food on the table. It’s a daily opportunity to support the kind of world we want to live in. Our actions and what we choose to buy can impact not only the planet’s future, but our social economy as well.
A 2017 study by Cone Communications reported that 60 percent of Americans believe businesses can be key drivers for social and environmental change. Whether it’s phasing out plastic bags and straws or carrying more ethically traded products, businesses are showing consumers that they are listening.
Businesses aren’t doing this just because you asked; they’re doing it because it’s the right thing. Many of them are putting their values on full display in the form of labels that make it easier for you to navigate the shopping aisle.
“As shoppers we are often in a hurry, so much so that we might not even be aware of how quickly we make a decision. That’s where clear labeling can help,” said Rebecca Walker Reczek, professor of marketing at Ohio State University. “Without it you’d need to research each product and the time can add up.”
The truth behind the labels
So what gives? Are organic and natural the same thing? Does a green label mean it’s better for the environment? What does "fair trade" really mean? These are just some of the questions many consumers are asking when they make their way down the grocery aisle.
Most of us are aware of those little labels on our food, but we often don’t understand what they mean. Like any choice, the key is education. To shop in accordance with our values, we must understand what the label stands for and how it’s been verified. And yes — verification matters.
Marketing savvy and great design can create convincing packaging and badges that represent a company’s promise, but often they aren’t based on rigorous standards.
On the other hand, certification labels mean that an independent organization has audited and checked that a company is following a standard set of rules — whether it’s fair trade, responsible fishing, GMO avoidance or better treatment of workers.
For example, the USDA organic label means that an independent organization has audited the farmer to make sure they abide by national organic standards. On the other hand, the term ‘natural’ has no set definition or standards. Neither the FDA nor the USDA has set rules for this term. Pure, natural, green, direct trade — all these terms conjure an image, but are not audited and don’t refer to any established standard. Essentially, they are just words.
A guide to the goods
Everyone has a right to know what is in their food and where it comes from. Look to these certifications to guide your next shopping trip:
* Fairtrade — The Fairtrade certification ensures safe and fair working conditions, prohibits child labor and provides farmers and workers with a fairer price or better wages. Fairtrade products originate in developing and least developed countries where farmers and workers are often marginalized.
Where found: Coffee, chocolate, bananas, sugar, avocados, tea and more
* MSC Certified — By choosing seafood with the MSC blue fish label you are supporting independently certified sustainable fisheries. Their good management practices help ensure fish stocks and habitats are healthy and fishing community livelihoods are secure.
Where found: Wild caught fish and seafood, fish oil supplements, pet food
* Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured — The EFI-certified label indicates that the workers who harvested your food are treated with respect, compensated fairly and engaged to identify problems that impact the safety of your food.
Where found: Fresh fruits and vegetables
* Non-GMO Project Verified — The Non-GMO Project Standard is North America’s most rigorous and reliable standard for GMO avoidance, set apart by its transparency, trustworthiness, ongoing testing and third-party status. The best way to avoid consuming GMOs is to look for the butterfly.
Where found: Dairy and meat products, fruit and vegetables, snack foods, vitamins and supplements, oils and more
Food is a basic necessity, but it is also a conscious choice shaped by our values and our lifestyle. Shop your values on your next shopping trip. To learn more about these certifications and continue the conversation, visit www.fairtr.de/TruthBehindLabels.
With the health of the oceans closely tied to the health of the environment, marine life and humans, making choices that help reduce ocean pollution is one way to make an impact. These tips are a few ways you can help protect the environment.
5 Tips to Help Reduce Litter and Protect the Oceans
(Family Features) The tide of environmental studies showing the harmful effects of litter and mismanaged waste on oceans are seemingly everywhere. For example, 8 million metric tons of plastics wind up in streams, rivers and waterways each year, according to research published in “Science.”
According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic product consumption is predicted to double over the next 10 years. With the health of the oceans closely tied to the health of the environment, marine life and humans, making choices that help reduce ocean pollution is one way to make an impact. In fact, research from the Plastic Free July Foundation shows that more than six in 10 people refuse plastic shopping bags, avoid pre-packed fruit and vegetables, pick up litter and avoid buying water in plastic bottles.
“Mismanaged packaging waste is a threat to our oceans and the overall health of our planet,” said Lynn Bragg, president of the Glass Packaging Institute. “We can all make a difference by changing the type of food and beverage packaging we buy, opting for reusable and refillable containers, following local recycling guidelines and helping keep beaches and waterways clean.”
These tips from the Glass Packaging Institute are just a few ways to contribute:
Find out more about the benefits of choosing and reusing glass packaging to help reduce ocean pollution at upgradetoglass.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Glass Packaging Institute
(BPT) - You can find them on the side of most every product at your local grocery store. They are plain and kind of boring but nutrition labels were designed to contain vitally important information for good health and wise food choices. These labels tell you the number of servings in a container, how many calories per serving, and what amounts of vitamins and essential nutrients (like sodium) they contain.
However, they don’t just give you the raw data, they also tell you what percentage of your daily allowance of needed nutrients you are getting. When it comes to sodium, however, that may be a problem. The daily allowances are based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, with guidance from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), now known as the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies).
The current FDA Dietary Guidelines call for a maximum daily sodium allowance of 2,300 mg, well below what the average American eats, which is about 3,400 mg per day of sodium. But, when the IOM studied this issue and released their report in 2013, “Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence,” they found no evidence to lower the daily allowance below 2,300 mg per day and some indication that doing so would be harmful. The level set by the FDA not only represents a significant population-wide sodium reduction effort, it also ignores the latest evidence.
An increasing amount of research is contradicting the FDA’s sodium guidelines. A 2014 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the healthy range for sodium consumption was between 3,000 and 6,000 mg per day and eating less than 3,000 mg per day may increase the risk of death or cardiovascular incidents. And a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that low-sodium diets were more likely to result in death from cardiovascular disease.
Low-salt diets can lead to insulin resistance, congestive heart failure, cardiovascular events, iodine deficiency, loss of cognition, low birth weights, and higher rates of death. Dr. Michael Alderman, editor of the American Journal of Hypertension and former president of the American Society of Hypertension, has repeatedly cited his concern that a population-wide sodium reduction campaign could have unintended consequences.
Very few countries in the world meet the government recommendations. A study of almost 20,000 people in 33 countries shows the normal range of consumption around the world is 2,800 to 4,800 mg/day. This is consistent regardless of where people get their food, either from home-cooked meals, prepackaged meals or restaurants.
The new nutrition labels were supposed to go into place this year, but now the FDA has indefinitely delayed their implementation. Hopefully this will allow them time to adjust the sodium limits to more accurately reflect the evidence as well as how real people eat and the safe range of sodium consumption.
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