Green Tips!: What labels really mean (produce)


Reading product labels is an easy and effective way to keep harmful chemicals out of your home (and your body). Some labels are more trustworthy then others and are backed by standards and regulations.


1. Certified Organic.

What it means: As clean and chemical free as it gets.

Certified by the USDA to be grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers, hormones, or GMOs. It cannot contain added sulfites or artificial colors or flavors. Packaged food labeled Certified Organic must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, but may contain up to 5% nonorgainic agricultural ingredients.


2. Made With Organic Ingredients

What it means: Made with MOSTLY organic ingredients.

These products must contain at least 70% organic ingredients and they are certified by USDA agents. Look out for non organic soy and corn since these are most likely to be genetically modified.


3. Natural

What it means: Not much.

No standards here. The FDA allows products that do not contain artificial colors or flavors to be labeled “Natural”. That means that products with highly refined and modified ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup can be labeled natural. It is not a certified product but there are federal penalties for companies that make false claims on their product labels.


4. Demeter Certified Biodynamic

What it means: Beyond organic. Founded on a holistic approach to nature and the seasons, the Demeter Biodynamic agricultural method is one of the oldest and most sustainable methods of farming. Crops are planted in cycles according to the sun and moon and the soil is fortified organically. Very strict and detailed standards were established in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner and an agricultural research group. No synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth hormones or genetically modified substances may be used, ever. Soil fertility management is required, farms must establish a detailed soil analysis and submit a 10-20 year history of the land. Produce must be guarded from coming into contact with conventionally grown produce durum shipping. This is the cleanest food you can eat.


5.  GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) Free or GE (Genetic Engineering) Free

What it means: The products has not been genetically modified or engineered. Knowingly.

GMO and GE free labels are voluntary and unregulated. The lables mean that no genetically modified or engineered ingredients are present in the product. However, There are no guarantees since genetic engineering is so widespread in products like corn and soy.


6. Fair Trade

What it means: The product was produced in a socially responsible way and produces met internationally agreed upon standards.

Standards are set by Fairtrade Labelling Organization International. The group sets developmental criteria for social, economic and environmental sustainability including rights of workers, working conditions, and wages. Buyers of Fairtrade products must may a premium that produces invest in social, economic and environmental development.