Ethical Eating: Seals, Certifications, Icons, Pledges and More | Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB)

Ethical Eating: Seals, Certifications, Icons, Pledges and More

Posted by: on Friday February 18, 2022

Consumers increasingly express interest in the environment, treatment of animals and sustainability. Where did this all start? Federal nutrition and organic labels may have paved the way for single-trait label claims. Yet there’s no denying that third parties have developed food seals and certifications for food packages and menu items to meet consumer interest in more transparency about the food they eat. Here is a snapshot of the challenges of ethical eating through the lenses of social justice, animal welfare, and environmental stewardship.

The wide, wide world of seals and certifications and more…

Seals and certifications (as of 2020) that address animal welfare, labor practices and sustainability. ‘Responsible consumerism’ sees rise in food certifications including glyphosate residue-free and certified B corporations. What are B corporations? They incorporate social values, state profit goals and are required to consider how their business impacts workers, suppliers, the community and the environment. Corporations are scored to achieve certification; some food companies that are certified include Cabot Creamery and Ben & Jerry’s. Some food certification labels – what they mean and where you may see them including: American Grassfed, Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance Certified, Salmon Safe, Maine Stewardship Council and Soil Association Certified Organic. Some additional certifications: Equitable Food Initiative certification; ASPCA’s Better Chicken Commitment; Upcycled Food Association’s Certified Upcycled certification mark addresses food waste. Some foods with upcycled food certification: grain gets first upcycled food certification; Del Monte canned veggiesChobani launches first Fair Trade Certified yogurt.

Ratings and resources…

GreenAmerica rates different certifications (animal welfare, environmental concerns, and human welfare) with a 5-star system. USDA listing of animal welfare certification programs includes a consumer guide with a listing of 39 labels and definitions and 9 certification programs; resources focused on farm certifications/alternative farming systems. Shop with Your Heart ASPCA 1-page grocery list searchable tool for different brands and the certifications they meet.

Groceries…

Walmart makes it easier to find sustainable products with its ‘Built for Better,’ an icon that tells the shopper the product has met with standards/certifications developed by other organizations; their list of standards/certifications and more will be added in the future. Hy-Vee adopts Seafood Supplier Code of Conduct. Sprouts’ ‘cage-free or better’ pledge sources from organic, cage-free or free-range farms.

Dining out/meal delivery…

Some examples addressing climate: Panera’s Cool Food meals certification and Blue Apron loyalty program.

Schools/colleges…

A Minnesota high school is first to sign the Forward Food pledge to have 20% of offerings plant-based by the end of 2024. Benedict College, an HBCU, is among the first college to adopt Forward Food. University of Dayton adopts Forward Food. More about the Humane Society’s Forward Food. University of Maryland first university to adopt Cool Food pledge to address climate.

And a smarter barcode is coming…

Consumers will get a lot more info about the foods they eat by 2027 when a new barcode replaces the current UPC barcode and delivers current and dynamic info (including sustainability) via 2D.

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