7 Food Certifications, Explained

7 Food Certifications, Explained

We try to eat well, but with the increasing number of "healthy," "organic," or "all natural" food labels, it can get a bit confusing on what's important or even legitimate. Luckily Treehugger recently did a great round up of 7 food certification to look for to eat green…

1. Food Alliance Covering foods such as produce, frozen foods, meats, dairy, legumes, grains, and oils, the Food Alliance certifies farms, ranches and food handlers for sustainable agricultural and facility management practices:
To earn certification, farms and ranches must meet standards for providing safe and fair working conditions; ensuring healthy and humane care for livestock; not adding hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics; not genetically modifying crops or livestock; reducing pesticide use and toxicity; conserving soil and water resources; and protecting wildlife habitat. Farmers are required to set goals for continual improvement and sign an affidavit that genetically engineered crops are not used.

2. Demeter Biodynamic Demeter USA is the only certification agent for Biodynamic farms, processors and products in the United States. Biodynamic certification indicates that the food has been produced with organic principles:
Biodynamic agriculture began in 1928 as a result of an Austrian based Anthroposophical movement, a "spiritual science" and incorporates ideas like cosmic rhythm (that is, the timing of the sun and moon phases), living soil, and consumer connection with farmers. While some of that can sound a little new-agey for some, biodynamic foods really take the whole food system into account; biodynamic farms devote 10% of their farm land to biodiversity, for example.

3. Bird Friendly The Bird Friendly is a certification for coffee and the label indicates that the conditions of the coffee plantations provide good bird habitats:
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) combines a variety of coffee labeling processes, like certified organic, and shade grown, to create a comprehensive checklist for sourcing green coffee. The goal of the program is to foster conditions on coffee plantations that provide good bird habitats; since that means much more than just keeping a few trees around, a lot of animal- and plant biodiversity is included. Things like maintenance of the tree canopy, diversity in tree and plant species, shade at specific times of the day, and establishment of plant borders around streams or rivers are all included into the Bird Friendly label criteria.

4. Fair Trade Generally seen on imported products such as coffee, tea, tropical fruits and chocolates, the Fair Trade certification is aimed to protect the workers behind the product. The goal is to provide, safe, healthy, sustainable working conditions for farmers and farm workers; ensure that farmers and farm workers in developing nations receive a fair price for their product; have direct trade relations with buyers and access to credit; and encourage sustainable farming methods, without the use of a dozen of the most harmful pesticides, and forced child labor:
To earn the label, products must be grown by small-scale producers democratically organized in either cooperatives or unions. In order to use the Fair Trade Certified label, the buyer must also be willing to pay up to 60 percent of the purchase in advance for some products, including coffee, tea and cocoa, with added premiums for social development projects, including health care, educational and capacity-building projects that can improve quality of life for farming communities.

5. Salmon Safe Products that carry the Salmon Safe certification include fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats, and wine:
Salmon Safe certification is designed to recognize farm and other land use operations that contribute to restoring stream eco-system health in native salmon fisheries. Farms producing products that carry the Salmon-Safe label have been evaluated for the use of agricultural practices that promote healthy streams and wetlands, including water use, erosion control, chemical management, and proper animal farming. The criteria to earn certification is designed to protect the salmon streams from farm run-off through good soil, water, and vegetation management that reduce chemical use and sustain resources.

6. Marine Stewardship Council The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labeling program aims to promote sustainable fisheries:
The MSC has defined sustainable marine fisheries as those who, "ensure that the catch of marine resources are at the level compatible with long-term sustainable yield, while maintaining the marine environment's biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes. Fish with this label hasn't been caught from an unsustainable fishery or otherwise harvested in an ocean-killing fashion; one thing it won't tell you is if that fish has unsafe levels of mercury or other bio-accumulating toxins.

7. FishWise Developed by the non-profit organization Sustainable Fishery Advocates, FishWise is a retail-level labeling system that identifies sustainable seafood; for the more sustainable choices, it displays a list of which species fall below health guidelines for bio-accumulation baddies like mercury and PCBs. The label has a couple of different marks to look for. The color coding -- green is good, yellow is concerning, red is bad -- identifies how sustainable the fishery is; the label also includes symbols that indicate the catch method -- longline, hook and line, etc. FishWise also uses one set of criteria used for aquacultured fish and a different set for wild-caught fish.

Head on over to Treehugger for more details.


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