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Fair Trade


I think it is fair to say that there is growing consumer demand for more ethically sourced / manufactured products; in food, clothes and even things like wood products. The fact that big players such as Nestle and Cadbury are producing favourite confectionary items such as Dairy Milk and Kit Kat with certification like Fair Trade strengthens this argument that accreditation is moving into the main stream. The question is with so much labelling appearing on our packaging – do we actually know what it all means and are we making educated decisions?

Well, Fair Trade is essentially certification to ensure that workers and producers in developing countries get a fair deal. In order for food, clothes or drink to carry the Fair Trade logo the product will have to have met international fair trade standards. That lay out that producers and communities benefit from a long term mutually beneficially partnership, agreed minimum prices and a commitment to their economic, social and environment sustainability.

The Rainforest Alliance works in a similar way in the developing world to provide farmers with economic incentives to not destroy their environment. Despite gathering high profile relationships with companies such as Kraft, PG Tips and Innocent Smoothies it is important to realise that there are fundamental differences in them and Fair Trade. For example farmers are not offered a minimum price for their produce, also if you take the example of coffee producers; a company can use 30% of the certified rainforest alliance coffee beans in their product and garner the right to use the RA logo. This allows the opportunity for bigger companies to make their products look green when in fact only 30% of the product is ethically sourced, where as to carry the Fair Trade logo the product must be 100% fair traded. That’s not to take away from their work creating sustainable communities, clean and safe working environments and ethical management of farms.

If you want to talk about confusing labelling though it is probably best to move onto organic food. In order for a food item to be termed organic its ingredients must be 95% made up of organic produce. If a food item only reaches between 70-95% then it may use organic in the ingredients list but the word organic must not appear in the products title.

In the UK The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) regulates the different organisations certifying organic items. The advisory committee on Organic Standards (ACOS) includes farmers, consumers, processors and other representatives from organisations with an interest in food safety, the environment and animal welfare. Each of the bodies that are approved by ACOS must meet a minimum set of standards in their production processes that meet EU and international legislation, although many of them set their own standards above the required baseline.

Food that is certified organic also has a responsibility to provide that product in sustainable packaging. I.e. it should minimise unnecessary packaging and use recycled materials where possible.

If you want to ensure you are buying a genuine organic product – then first look for a logo, then check the title and then the ingredients list, if in doubt check with the supplier to ensure the products credentials.