What Do Those Food Labels Really Mean?

More than 200 ecolabels can appear on products in the United States, according to the Ecolabel Index. The most helpful labels on food and beverages can point eaters toward products that support animal welfare, farm workers, or the health of the planet. But with so many in use, it can be challenging for consumers to know which ones to look for and which to avoid.

“The grocery aisle is confusing and overwhelming with the number of options that it has,” Jerusha Klemperer, Director of FoodPrint, says.

Using the Animal Welfare Approved label from A Greener World (AGW), Klemperer explains that it represents “the gold standard” for animal welfare. The AGW certification program helps to ensure that livestock are bred, raised, and slaughtered as humanely as possible. Klemperer says that consumers looking to support the wellbeing of farmed animals can look for and trust products with this label when they find it in stores.

Other labels, however, can be misleading. Foods branded as all natural or natural may sound appealing for consumers rushing through grocery aisles. But, Klemperer says, the terms are almost meaningless.

Some companies “will be more inclined to…try to oversimplify the information, to make it opaque,” explains Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy for Consumer Reports. And unfortunately, he says, the onus often falls on the consumer to distinguish between labels that support high standards and those that lack clear regulations.

To help consumers wade through the sea of options and choose products that reflect their values, Food Tank, in partnership with Edible Communities, released an article breaking down the meaning behind labels. Readers can learn about which icons and terms to look for, whether they want to promote fair labor conditions, preserve marine ecosystems, or reduce their carbon footprint.

You can find the article here or look for an Edible Communities magazine near you.

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Photo courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash

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