How to read food labels?

8 Food Certifications You Should Be Aware Of

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Eating isn’t just about indulging in great cuisines or sharing tasty grub over a family movie night. As the world stares at water and environmental crises, the perception about food is changing. People are increasingly switching to healthier, eco-friendly food items and brands. Food certifications help one identify such brands and products.

Why food certifications

Apart from ensuring food safety, food certifications perform a pivotal role in helping customers choose healthy food. They provide third-party assurance to consumers that the claims about the way the product is grown and its contents are in alignment with regional, national or international standards and protocols. 

Food certification you should check for before buying packaged food

The following food certifications may be helpful to you if you want to start your journey towards healthy, sustainable consumption:

1. NPOP

Launched in 2001, the National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) is an initiative by the government of India. It provides an institutional framework for accreditation of certification bodies and certification of organic products. The NPOP sets standards for organic production and promotes organic farming. As of March 2018, about 3.56 million hectares of land in India have been accredited under organic certification by the NPOP, with the state of Madhya Pradesh leading the way. Notably, all of Sikkim’s cultivable land has been deemed organic by NPOP. 

NPOP certification process

To be certified by the NPOP, production standards should include:

• the prohibition of synthetic chemical inputs and GMOs

• farming on land that has been chemical-free for two years or more 

• strict separation of certified and non-certified products 

• on-site inspections

The NPOP certification has international equivalence with the European Union and Switzerland. It also has a recognition agreement on conformity assessment with the USDA. Thus, NPOP certified products are easily exportable as certified organic products to other countries.

2. EEC

EEC or the European Union Regulation No. 2092/91 is the European Council formed on 28th June 2007 for certifying and regulating the organic cultivation of agricultural products. The regulations by the EU-Eco-regulation (EEC) are derived from the guidelines provided in the IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements). 

What comes under EEC regulations

The regulations set by this council deal with complex topics such as:

• the breeding of animal species and foodstuffs

• veterinary treatments and disease prevention

• husbandry practices

• animal welfare

• management of manure 

It also includes the regulation of labelling, raising and inspection of horses, cattle, goats, sheep and poultry. 

GMOs and GMO derived products are omitted from organic production under EEC. Import of organic food into the EU is also regulated by the EEC which regulates geographical indications and protected designations of origin.

3. NOP

Established in 2001, the National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory program of America that operates as the uniform national standard for organically-produced agricultural products that are sold in the country. A belt of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the NOP is a public-private partnership and helps train private companies in the certification process. As of 2019, there are 79 USDA accredited certifying agents. 

NOP labels 

The NOP covers both fresh and processed agricultural food products. Labels include:

• 100 Percent Organic

• Organic 

• Made with Organic

Each of the labels has a different meaning and could be accompanied by the official USDA organic seal. 

Under the USDA organic initiative, NOP allows the usage of ‘Made with Organic’ label to specify products containing at least 70% organically produced ingredient. However, products that carry this label cannot use the USDA organic seal. The US has implemented agreements of equivalency with Canada, the European Union, Japan and Korea.

4. JAS

The Japanese Agricultural Standards  (JAS) was set up in 2000 to provide guidelines of production, processing, labelling and marketing of organically produced food. The organisation comes under the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). 

JAS regulations

The JAS adopts the Codex guidelines for the marketing of organic foods. The JAS sets internationally recognised standards for organic products and has several regulations pertaining to: 

• Seeding

• Manuring

• Usage of chemicals and recombinant DNA technology. 

The certification can be obtained for organic foods and feeds, organically processed foods and organic livestock products.

5. Bio Suisse

Founded in 1981, Bio Suisse is the main organic agriculture body of Switzerland. There are 32 organic farmers’ associations under its umbrella. It controls the practices of about 7,100 businesses and certifies 1,000 processing companies. Import under the Bio Suisse is only permitted if domestic production is not possible or sufficient (coffee, cereals etc.) As NPOP certified products are equivalent to Bio Suisse, India can export organic products to Switzerland with ease.

 6. Demeter 

Demeter is formed to align and integrate with the Bio dynamic movement in the US. A not-for-profit set up in 1985, Demeter’s vision is to use agriculture as the means of healing for the planet. Biodynamic agriculture is all about taking farming practices back to its roots, condemning the use of machines in agriculture.  

Demeter certified products are all organic products that are completely produced through manual labour. Many of the associates are family owned and operated. This is the oldest ecological certification organisation in the world and is active in 50 countries globally. It is much harder to obtain a Demeter certificate than a NOP certificate. 

7. Kosher

 The Kosher certification agency officially grants the hechsher or seal of approval for Kosher foods. For a food to be considered kosher, the ingredients, process and service must comply with the kashrut, the Jewish Dietary Law, as stated in the Shulchan Arukh. The kosher certification body appoints mashgichim (rabbinic field representatives) to ensure that all standards are met by the food-production or services company. 

Kosher is not government regulated. As a result, kosher certification does not imply adherence to government-approved food safety standards.


8. Forest Garden Product (FGP)

Developed by the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), Forest Garden Products (FGP) are farmed through environmentally sustainable and socially just means. The principle of Analog Forestry is to restore native biodiversity through organic agriculture, crop diversification and system maturation. 

How FGP products are cultivated

Forest Garden Products are cultivated in a maturing tree dominated ecosystem that mimics the natural environment, encouraging native biodiversity. FGP facilitates the production of safe and superior quality silvicultural or agricultural products while avoiding toxins and building upon the local biotic capital. Analog Forestry incorporates and encompasses principles of traditional forestry, home gardens, agro-forestry and permaculture.

Now that you are aware of these certifications, you can actively seek out products that are sustainable for the environment.

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