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Food Labels: Improving Your Grocery Store Vocabulary KEY We see you looking at those labels and we like it! In addition to nutrition info R Regulated/audited by a certifying agency or and ingredient lists, there’s a lot of independent organization information on food packaging these G Unregulated; term is intended as a guideline days. It can be hard to know what it all means – especially when it comes to P Partial regulation; some affiliation with a certain oft-used terms, like organic, cafeverifying/standards body free and vine-ripened. 100% VEGETARIAN FED P 100% “vegetarian fed” on meat and egg products, indicates the animal was not fed any animal byproducts and was raised on grasses, hay, silage and other feed found on a pasture or in a field. They will also not been given any supplements or additives. ALLERGEN LABELING G The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandates that products containing milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat must on the ingredient list or via the word “contains” followed by the name of the major food allergen, or as a parenthetical statement in the list of ingredients. Product labels also denote that a potential allergen may have been used in the processing of the food, or may have been processed in the same manufacturing plant. AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED R Formerly known as the Free Farmed program, this label provides third-party, independent verification that certified producers’ care and handling of farm animals meet the science-based animal welfare standards of the American Humane Association. Standards require that animals be raised in ways that minimize stress, and include adequate shelter, comfortable resting areas, sufficient space, proper facilities and ability to express typical behavior. BIRD FRIENDLY R Certified by scientists from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, this label is found on coffee that is organic and meets strict requirements for the amount of shade and the type of forest in which it is grown. Often called Shade Grown, this term has little weight unless accompanied by the Bird Friendly label. SMBC supports coffee plantations that provide good bird habitats, such as maintenance of a tree canopy, diversity in tree and plant species and establishment of plant borders around streams or rivers. CAGE-FREE G This label denotes that birds are raised without the use of cages. However, it does not indicate how crowded or small conditions are or how much free-roaming time birds get. There is no third-party auditing of the label. CERTIFIED HUMANE RAISED & HANDLED R Administered by Humane Farm Animal Care, this label ensures that animals raised for dairy, lamb, poultry and beef products are treated humanely and with their welfare in mind. The animals must be allowed to engage in natural behavior and be raised with sufficient space, shelter and gentle handling. These animals are also provided fresh water and a diet without added antibiotics or hormones, and producers must comply with a higher standard for slaughtering. CERTIFIED NATURALLY GROWN R Certified Naturally Grown farms use no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, herbicides, fungicides, hormones or GMO. Their livestock are raised mostly on pasture, with space for freedom of movement, and their feed is grown without synthetics. CERTIFIED VEGAN R This label appears on products containing no animal ingredients or byproducts, using no animal ingredients or byproducts in the manufacturing process and conducting no testing on animals. Administered by the nonprofit Vegan Awareness Foundation, the program relies on written statements by companies and suppliers that the product is vegan. Companies renew their certification annually to ensure no ingredients have changed. DOLPHIN SAFE R Dolphin Safe tuna must meet a variety of standards, such as no intentional chasing, netting or encirclement of dolphins for the full duration of a tuna-fishing trip, and no mixing of dolphin-safe and dolphin-deadly tuna in individual boat wells. Earth Island Institute created the International Marine Mammal Project to monitor tuna companies worldwide. To date, IMMP has eliminated dolphin-deadly tuna from 90% of the world’s canned-tuna markets. FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED R Guarantees that farmers receive a fair price for such crops as coffee, tea, cacao, fruit, sugar, rice and spices. It also means the farms offer safe working conditions, use ecologically sustainable methods and have access to community development projects. Fair Trade is certified in the U.S. through Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair USA), an independent thirdparty certifier, which reported that sales of Fair Trade Certified products grew an astounding 75 percent in 2011. FARM RAISED P Farm raised fish are nurtured on farms, or net pen in the ocean, rather than caught in their natural habitat. Farmed fish is believed to be a way to address the growing problem of overfishing. Environmental Defense, a national advocacy organization, is not a certifying agency but helps companies establish standards programs. FOOD ALLIANCE CERTIFIED R The Food Alliance label, distinguishes foods produced by farmers, ranchers and food processors that use environmentally and socially responsible practices. Farms and ranches must meet standards for providing safe and fair working conditions; ensuring healthy and humane care for livestock; avoiding hormones and non-therapeutic antibiotics; not genetically modifying crops or livestock; reducing pesticide use and toxicity; conserving soil and water resources; and protecting wildlife habitat. The certification applies to beef, lamb, pork, poultry, dairy, fruit, processed foods, nuts and vegetables, legumes and grains. FREE RANGE P Free Range suggests animals were raised in the open air or were free to roam. It does not necessarily mean that the products are cruelty- or antibiotic-free or that the animals spent a significant amount of time outdoors. The claim is regulated only on poultry products not on eggs or other meat. Similar label claims include “Free Roaming” or “Free Running.” GLUTEN-FREE R Products sporting this seal have met stringent standards to ensure gluten-free safety and are certified to contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten. This new certification program is available from organic certifier Quality Assurance International and the healthcare nonprofit National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Unlike unsubstantiated gluten-free claims on the market, this certification is science-based and triple-verified through inspections and product testing. The stringent certification relies on annual inspection, ingredient verification, random product testing and unannounced audits. GRASS FED P This label indicates animals have been fed grasses from birth to slaughter. Antibiotics may have been given to treat disease, but not to promote growth or prevent disease. Their feed did not include grain, animal byproducts or synthetic hormones. The animals must also have continuous access to pasture during the growing season, with no confinement. HALAL R Halal denotes that the food conforms to Muslim dietary laws. A halal certification is provided by a certified third-party agency. Halal certification involves the inspection of food preparation practices, processing facilities and food ingredients to ensure that halal standards were met. HEART HEALTHY R American Heart Association’s label means that the food is deemed safe for heart health when eaten as part of a balanced diet. Foods must comply with existing FDA or USDA requirements for making a heart-related claim, which means it contains less than 6.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol and 480 milligrams of sodium per serving, and at least 10% of the recommended daily allowance of nutrients. KOSHER R Denotes that foods meet the standards of Jewish dietary laws. For more than 80 years, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU) has been the leading certifier of kosher foods, supervising hundreds of thousands of products in more than 90 countries throughout the world. Other certifiers’ labels include cRc, Star-K, Triangle-K and Kof-k. Next to the agency’s symbol may be a letter identifying the product’s kosher status: “D” indicates dairy; “M,” meat; “P,” kosher for Passover. NON-GMO PROJECT R As North America’s only independent verifier of products made according to best practices for avoiding genetically modified organisms in the U.S. and Canada, the Non-GMO Project seal indicates that the product has gone through a strict verification process. It uses an Action Threshold of 0.9 percent, in alignment with laws in the European Union, where any product containing more than 0.9 percent GMO must be labeled. Absence of all GMOs is the target for all compliant products. After verification, rigorous traceability and segregation practices are followed to ensure ingredient integrity. Verification is maintained through an annual audit, along with on-site inspections for high-risk products. ORGANIC R Organic foods cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, sewage sludge, bioengineering methods or ionizing radiation and cannot contain genetically modified organisms or be irradiated. For meat, the animals must have been fed only organically grown feed without animal byproducts and should be free of hormones and antibiotics. Several types of verbiage and seals are used under the USDA standards: “100% Organic” indicates that all ingredients are wholly organic; “Organic” means at least 95% of a product’s ingredients are organic; “Made with organic ingredients” applies to products whose ingredients are at least 70% organic and list up to three organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list specific organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front label. PROTECTED HARVEST R Suggests animals were raised in the open air or were free to roam This certifies farmers used environmental growing standards known as Biointensive Integrated Pest Management, a method of pest control less toxic than pesticides. Today, almost 30,000 acres of farmland are certified by Protected Harvest, encompassing wine grapes, potatoes, mushrooms, stone fruits and citrus. Protected Harvest, a nonprofit organization, is in the process of developing a certification program for dairy, almonds, tomatoes and a variety of fresh produce. RAINFOREST ALLIANCE R This environmental certification for coffee, tea, cacao and fruits denotes the item has been grown or made sustainably and that workers were treated fairly. Each purchase of a labeled product helps the Rainforest Alliance preserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Farms are audited annually and surprise audits are carried out for certified farms at least once a year. SALMON SAFE R Farms producing foods that carry the Salmon Safe label have been evaluated by independent experts who certify the use of agricultural practices that promote healthy streams and wetlands. These practices include water use, erosion control, chemical management and proper animal farming, all contributing to restoring stream eco-system health in native salmon fisheries of the Pacific Northwest. UTZ CERTIFIED R Almost half of all certified sustainable coffee is now Utz certified. This label stands for sustainable farming and better opportunities for farmers, their families and the environment. It assures responsible production and sourcing practices by one of the largest coffee-certification programs in the world and enables farmers to learn better farming methods, improve working conditions and take better care of their children and the environment. The strict requirements for Utz-certified farms and businesses are closely monitored by independent third parties and audited annually. VEGETARIAN G This term is not regulated and can usually imply only that the product doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients. The products also may or may not have been tested on animals. Foods with “100% vegetarian ingredients” on the label contain no meat but may contain eggs or dairy. These marks are not regulated by any labeling law; instead, consumers can find the most reliable match between labels and their claims on foods that display logos from organizations such as the Vegetarian Society. WHOLE GRAIN STAMP R Whole Grain stamp aims to help consumers identify authentic whole-grain foods. There are two versions of this label: The 100% Whole Grain stamp denotes that the food contains a full serving (16 grams) or more of whole grains per labeled serving. The socalled basic Whole Grain stamp appears on products containing at least half a serving (8 grams) of whole grain per labeled serving. Each stamp also shows exactly how many grams of whole grains are in one serving of a product.