The Two Sides to the Meat Labeling Debate

The Two Sides to the Meat Labeling Debate

The Meat Labeling debate has been an issue between the NAFTA countries (U.S., Canada, Mexico) for several years. Most recently, in October of 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in Canada’s favor addressing the controversial U.S. country-of-origin meat-labeling scheme (COOL) which has been found in violation of free trade agreements by the WTO.

The U.S. Meat Labeling Background

Effective in 2013, the latest U.S. labeling rules require meat labels to indicate the country (or countries) where the animal was born, raised, and then slaughtered.

Originally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed the labels to say “Product of U.S.” or “Product of U.S. and Canada.” When the WTO rejected this approach, the USDA made the labels more specific. For example, the new labels would state that the animal was “born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” However, the WTO also rejected these revised rules.

Canada’s WTO Win

A WTO report released on October 20th states that the U.S. labeling rules give an unfair advantage to domestic meat products. For Canada (and Mexico), COOL is a non-tariff trade barrier designed to make it more costly to handle beef and swine born or raised in Canada. Because of these trade-barriers, Canada has seen a lower demand for their livestock and higher handling costs – costs that exceed $1 billion per year.

Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and Gerry Ritz, Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, responded to the U.S. appeal with a promise to keep retaliation on the table. The U.S. could face trade retaliation from Canada in the way of meat tariffs on U.S. meat, as well as chocolate, cereal, wine, and other food products.

Their joint statement stated, “Canada is deeply disappointed with the U.S. decision to appeal the WTO ruling on COOL. Canada fully expected the United States to live up to its international trade obligations and comply with the WTO ruling, which reaffirms Canada’s long-standing view that the revised U.S. COOL measure is blatantly protectionist and fails to comply with the WTO’s original ruling against it.”

Still, the WTO found that the labels serve their intended purpose of supplying consumer information – Canada and Mexico claimed the labels did not.

The U.S. Appeal

The WTO announced that the U.S. was appealing the ruling for a 3rd time within the allotted 60-day appeal period. Although few details have been released, the WTO says that appeals have to be based on points of law, such as legal interpretation. They cannot reopen factual findings made by the decision-making panel.

This is the U.S.’s third loss on the COOL issue, but it does mean the U.S. puts off the time when its economy might be forced to pay punitive tariffs on some of the $52 billion in sales Americans make to Canada.

The U.S. Divide

U.S. business groups are divided on the labeling rule. Some large meatpackers oppose the regulation, saying it drives up costs and hurts trade with Canada and Mexico. Other agricultural groups, however, back the appeal, saying it could help give consumers more information. With all the changes to GMO labeling, gluten-free labeling, and stricter guidelines for other food product, it’s clear that consumers want more information. Still, with rising beef prices, less regulation could mean lower prices.

Many U.S. farmers who compete with Mexican and Canadian ranchers welcome the appeal. The feel it is the right thing for the American people to know where there meat is coming from. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson on Friday called it “the right thing to do for American family farmers, ranchers and consumers.”

Flexible Packaging Market Is Expecting Strong Growth Through 2018

Recent studies of the Flexible Packaging Market show an expectation of continued growth through 2018. According to a study by MarketsandMarkets, this industry will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1% every year through 2018. Additionally, the BRIC countries should see the greatest growth, which is no surprise considering the advancements these countries have been making in recent years along with their extensive populations.

So why Flexible Packaging? Why move from glass, paper and rigid plastics? Really, there are so many advantages to Flexible Packaging, and companies are embracing the trend.

Weight and Volume
Pouches utilize 20% less volume and haves 1/10 the packaging weight. Both of these qualities make for lower freight costs and less storage space.

Environmentally Friendly
Because flexible packages utilize less volume and weight, the company’s carbon footprint is reduced making this trend an environmentally friendly one. Less volume and weight lowers the disposal cost and lessens transportation-related energy and fuel consumption. According to a study by Fres-co there is a 50% reduction in landfill waste and there is a 71% reduction in BTU consumption.

Great Taste and Safe Use
With pouches you eliminate the metallic taste and achieve a longer shelf life. There are no metal shards or edges to cause cuts. There is no BPA or chance of metal fragments in the finished product.

Convenient and Attractive
Many consumers find canned foods and glass jars difficult to open, particularly elderly consumers. However,pouches are much simpler to open making them more appealing to the consumer. Pouches can be molded into interesting shapes, are microwavable, and can have a wide variety of closures attached including re-sealable strips.

Consumer trends play a role in the popularity of almost everything. This is true for flexible packaging as well. With the increase in fast-paced consumer lifestyles, food products that offer convenience are increasingly popular. Pouches provide that convenience and ease better than traditional packaging. Great quality, more cost-efficient and easier for your operation and the environment, pouches are the right choice for so many reasons.

EPI is a dedicated manufacturer of high quality labeling for packaging and promotional needs. As the leading manufacturer of Flexible Packaging labelers the EPI Flex-Pac™ family easily integrates with a wide variety of packaging machines including, VFFS (vertical bag maker), Pouch, HFFS (horizontal flow wrappers) and stretch wrappers. We have been designing labelers for Flexible Packaging for well over 30 years. Our machines are dependable, reliable and versatile.

For more information on labeling Flexible Packages check out our articles “How Flexible Packaging Impacts Labeling” or “Advantages of Flexible Packaging for Fresh Foods“. You can also give us a call and talk with one of our top experts.

Labeler Applicators

What’s the difference?

Tamp/Blow label applicators are a non-contact way to apply labels to hard-to-reach areas on products like recessed lids, such as pie shell containers. Each label is fed onto the labeler’s tamp pad and held by a vacuum. When a product is detected the pneumatic cylinder extends and the label is blown onto the surface of the product.  This applicator allows for a variable distance. Bags of bread are another example of a product that you might label with a tamp/blow applicator.

EPI Systems Product
Print/Apply System Pallets, Boxes and Trays
Core Print/Apply Trays, Pallets, and Boxes
Core Labeler Bottles, Pallets, Boxes, Trays and Tubs
UII Bottles, Tubs, Boxes, Pallets and Trays
Bakery System Bread and Bun Bags

Vac/Blow label applicators allow safe and contact-free labeling. This is a wonderful labeling application used for flexible packaging such as chip or candy bags. The label is fed onto the labeler’s tamp pad. A burst of air blows the label onto the surface when a product is detected without impact or damage to the product. Labeling flexible packages is something we do a lot. This is probably the application that we use 80% of the time.

EPI Systems Product
UII Bottles, Tubs, Boxes, Pallets and Trays
Bakery System Bread and Bun Bags
Flex-Pac™ Bottles, Tubs, Boxes, Pallets, and Trays
Core Print/Apply Trays, Pallets and Boxes
Core Labeler Bottles, Pallets, Boxes, Trays and Tubs

Wipe-On label applicators use a brush, a roller or other material to wipe the label onto the product. This application can be used on flexible packages as well as detergent bottles, lids of margarine containers and even clamshell containers.

EPI Systems Product
M-Series Bottles, Tubs, Boxes, Trays, Pallets, Pouches, Horizontal/Flow Wrappers
Core Labeler Bottles, Pallets, Boxes, Trays and Tubs

Tamp label applicators come in brief contact with the product. When the product is detected the pneumatic cylinder extends causing the pad to briefly contact the product in order to tamp the label on. Cases of yogurt or pallets of decorative rocks.

EPI Systems Product
Print/Apply System Pallets, Boxes and Trays
Core Print/Apply Trays, Pallets, and Boxes
Core Labeler Bottles, Pallets, Boxes, Trays and Tubs
UII Bottles, Tubs, Boxes, Pallets and Trays
Bakery System Bread and Bun Bags
Flex-Pac™ Bottles, Tubs, Boxes, Pallets, and Trays

When deciding on the right application for your next labeling job, remember:

  • Identify your need.
  • Where in your production line will the labeling process take place?

These two things will help determine the type of labeler and application needed. Contact EPI Labelers for your LABELER needs. Knowing the labeler and application you will be using will help determine labels and label sizes that are possible. For more information check out our blog: How do I know what labeler and/or label to use?

3 Great Reasons to Attend Pack Expo 2014

Industry Knowledge and Training

Pack Expo is known for quality by suppliers around the world. This tradeshow provides processing and packaging innovations for every vertical market in the packaging industry. In today’s competitive world it is very important to stay on top of the next big thing. Pack Expo provides attendees the opportunity to learn from the experts and build strong business partnerships.

• Find the most efficient solutions for your processing and packaging needs.
• Gain insight into every industry represented.
• Acquire valuable ideas and connections from within your own industry.

Attendees can learn how to advance their processing and packaging operations in order to stay competitive. Presentations on emerging technology, sessions on safe food manufacturing and 30-minute talks from the industry leaders are all available for attendees. The knowledge and training one can gain from attending Pack Expo is endless.

Face to Face Relationships

What better way to meet with potential vendors or clients than face to face. You can improve your buying decisions by getting to know the suppliers and the products they have to offer your company. Having a complete understanding and knowledge of the product you are buying allows you to make better purchasing decisions. You will be able to watch processing and packaging solutions in action. You can hold product and materials in your hands and examine them. You can even compare equipment side by side; see firsthand how the equipment works and gain a better understanding as to if it will work for your company. You can ask questions and discover things that email just can’t convey.

Check out EPI!

We will be in booth #4918 featuring our Top of the Line Labelers. Stop by our booth and talk with us about your production line and how we can best service your needs. For more information on what we will be exhibiting at the show check out our blog post Pack Expo International 2014, Chicago!

We exhibit at Pack Expo every year. According to PMMIReports this year’s show will have more exhibitors then ever and is the 2nd largest Pack Expo event in history. EPI believes this show produces more traffic and actual decision makers than any other show that we attend. Pack Expo brings together current customers and decision makers at the largest packaging equipment show and also allows us a chance to interact with all of our OEM partners. It is truly the show that everyone attends.

Pack Expo Chicago 2014

PACK EXPO International is ESSENTIAL

EFFICIENCY – Where else can you compare practically every processing and packaging solution out there—from 1,800+ suppliers—all in one place?
ENERGY – There’s nothing like watching processing and packaging innovations in action, holding materials and containers in your hands and examining equipment side by side.
EDGE – Staying competitive means walking the same show floor your competitors are walking, latching on to the latest trends, and learning strategies that work from industry experts.
EXCITEMENT – Witness the unveiling of breakthrough technologies, see what new robots can do, try your hand at the latest in automation, get ideas from engineers in other industries.
ENGAGEMENT – You’ll get the face time you need to problem-solve on the spot and build strong business partnerships with suppliers.

We hope to see you next month in Chicago!

Pack Expo International 2014, Chicago!

Pack Expo International in Chicago is right around the corner. This show has always drawn exhibitors and attendees from all over the world. This year is expected to be biggest show thus far. This year the decision was made for the Pack Expo Chicago Trade Show and the Pharma Expo Trade Show to merge and to begin exhibiting at the same time in Chicago, November 2-5, 2014. For this joint venture, PMMI will be teaming up with ISPE to offer this growing joint trade show event.

EPI Labelers will exhibit at Pack Expo International. We will be in the North Hall, Booth #4918. We will be featuring several of our top of the line labelers including: Top/Bottom System, C-Wrap System, Core Series Print/Apply on BestPack Case Taper, Core Series Tamp/Blow, UII, M-Series and Flex-PacTM on a Matrix bag maker. All of our machines are engineered for ease of use and reliability, and are designed to integrate to existing specific packaging lines. With the required updates approaching for Hazard Communication Standard labels to comply with Globally Harmonized Systems (GHS) stop by our booth to see how we can help you with your GHS labeling needs as well. You can also read more on our website at http://www.epilabelers.com/ghs-labeling.See how we can help you comply with the Globally Harmonized Systems (GHS) labels!

Pack Expo 2014


Top/Bottom System – Top of the line, for your bottom line.
The EPI Top & Bottom Labeler is designed to label the top and bottom of clamshell and tub style containers and cartons neatly and accurately. The system features simple vertical and horizontal adjustments to allow for quick and reliable label placement.

C-Wrap System -The EPI C-Wrap System incorporates a small split conveyor with an EPI M-Series Labeler to adhere labels to the top, front, and bottom of a clamshell container. The conveyor presents the filled clamshell to the labeler, the label is applied to the package and a dual wipe mechanism firmly secures the label.

Core Series Print/ApplyBarcodes, Addressing, Product ID….You Name It!  Variable information is more and more a part of your CORE business. Now you can have the quality, simplicity and durability of an EPI Labeler in a compact package that supports top-line growth and bottom-line costs with the Core Series Print/Apply.

Core Series Labeler –The EPI Core Series Tamp will minimize cost, downtime and training with CORE Series labelers from EPI. Industrial grade components are cleverly engineered into a compact, durable platform to provide years of service. The menu driven touch-screen minimizes training, provides intuitive control as well as audible/ visual status indication.

UII – Engineered for Simplicity, Built to Operate 24/7.The EPI U-II labeler combines simplicity, durability and flexibility all into one labeler that has the capability of meeting a wide variety of labeling applications.

M-Series – The Only Thing Small About this Machine is its Size!The EPI M-Series is a compact and simple solution to complex labeling. It’s a smaller, smarter machine that is self-calibrating, flexible enough to customize on the fly and simple enough to set up in a few minutes.

Flex-PacTM Sometimes the Best Ideas are the Simplest.  The EPI Flex-Pac family of labelers easily integrates with a variety of packaging machines including, VFFS, HFFS, horizontal flow wrappers and stretch wrappers. We take the time to engineer mounting systems that fit your individual F/F/S to ensure that the label is applied at the correct spot, thus ensuring a reliably placed label on every package.

Our machines are the answer to easy and efficient workflow production for our clients’ industries, which include; snack food, bakery, confectionery, beverage, dairy, coffee, meat and poultry, pet food, frozen food, fabric, textile and general packaging.  For a detailed product list, visit http://epilabelers.com/.

Follow the latest and newest technology in EPI’s Labeling Equipment?  For the latest information on our machines, industry trends and all of EPI’s latest news and happenings…

What The New Hazcom Standards Mean for Chemical Labeling

OSHA’s 2012 Hazard Communication Standard affects U.S. Chemical Manufacturers and Distributors and how they label their products.

OSHA’s Hazcom 2012 final rule modified the current hazard communication standard. The new standards are aligned with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The new law keeps most basic elements of the old Hazcom standard in place while increasing worker protection by enhancing the requirements for hazard communication and classification.

What are the new GHS standards?

GHS is an internationally agreed-upon system, created by the United Nations. It is designed to use consistent criteria for classification and labeling globally. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the GHS includes criteria for the classification of health, physical and environmental hazards, and specifies what information should be included on labels of hazardous chemicals and safety data sheets (SDS). The United States actively participated in the development of the GHS, and is a member of the UN body established to maintain and coordinate implementation of the system.

The system uses pictogramshazard statements, and the signal words “Danger” and “Warning” to communicate hazard information on product labels in a comprehensive way. The primary goal of GHS is to better protect human health and the environment by providing chemical users and handlers with enhanced and consistent information on chemical hazards.

The first standard of OSHA’s Hazcom was to be completed by December 1, 2013. Employers were required to have trained employees on the new Hazcom label elements and SDS format.

For the next step in the process, manufacturers have until June 1, 2015. Manufacturers and distributors are toreclassify chemicals and update labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). After Dec. 1, 2015, Distributors can no longer ship chemicals labeled under old Hazcom Standards.

What does this mean for my business?

Chemical manufacturers and distributors have a lot of required labeling changes to make. GHS labeling largely reflects usage by the transportation world. All pictograms are international recognized and are designed to limit the need for language conversion from country to country.

Although, under both the old and new Hazcom rule labeling was a requirement, the new features that will be required on such labels will undergo a radical change. The new law states you have to label your hazards products and you have to follow the guidelines laid out in appendix C of the Hazcom law.

GHS Regulations
  • The label for each hazardous chemical shall include the product identifier used on the safety data sheet.
  • The labels on shipped containers shall also include the name, address and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer or responsible party.
  • The label of each hazardous chemical that is classified shall include the signal ward, hazard statement, pictogram, and precautionary statement specified in C.4 for each hazard class and associated hazard category, except as provided for in C.2.1 through C.2.4

The final implementation date is June 1, 2016 when the entire program must be in place. Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communications programs as necessary and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

With the new GHS required labeling changes on the horizon, EPI Labelers can help with a variety of options when it comes to labeling equipment. EPI Labelers are built to stand up in the toughest of environments and our engineered simplicity makes them easy to use and maintain. From flexible packaging to case labeling and almost anything in between, using pre-printed labels or a print-and-apply labeler we have the solution to help you conform to the new GHS standard.

For more information on the GHS changes and how EPI Labelers can help go to www.http://www.epilabelers.com/ghs-labeling!

Brands Jump on Back to School Packaging and Labeling

Packaging and Labeling for Back to School

Back to School Packaging and Labeling

Back to school is a hectic time of year for everyone with kids. First, you make several trips to Target, WalMart, etc to make sure they have all of their school supplies. Then you begin the ever-dreaded task of planning packed lunches. As a parent I am always looking for that next healthy snack for my kids, and food companies are banking on it.

According to Prevention Institute, the food and beverage industry spends approximately $2 billion dollars annually on marketing junk food directly to kids. Kids watch an average of over ten food-related ads every day. As a mom, I believe it. Not a day goes by where at least one of my kids is asking to try some sugary junk food that they have just seen a commercial for – and I can’t blame them. Manufacturers of these junk foods have great marketing departments and know what grabs children’s attention. Kids love bright colors and fun cartoon characters and you rarely see that on healthy snacks on the perimeter of the grocery store.

Recently Bolthouse Farms has made a move to compete in the back-to-school grab-and-go market by marketing to our children as well. The only difference is that Bolthouse Farms is one of the largest producers of baby carrots and juices in North America, and has created healthy snack choices. Their approach? Flavor their carrots like favorite snack foods and wrap their healthy snacks in junk food-like packaging.

“We believe that stealing a play out of the junk food playbook is a way for us to make these kinds of foods more emotive, more reachable, more accessible, more affordable, and that will increase consumption overall,” says Todd Putman, chief commercial officer at Bolthouse Farms. Bolthouse wants to inspire kids to make better food choices.Want to get kids to eat carrots? Brand them like junk food.

According to Prevention Institute one study found that when children were exposed to television content with food ads, they consumed 45% more food than those exposed to non-food ads. Bolthouse and other brands want to bring some of the junk food innovation to the produce aisle, with the hopes of seeing real changes in how children eat.

Another company pushing for healthier snack options for kids is Garden Lites, The Delicious Vegetable Company. They are also taking advantage of the back to school marketing. They launched their new packaging for veggie-rich muffins and soufflés during back to school promotions. They have updated their logo as well as easy to read packaging. Their muffins thaw at room temperature, which makes them a great portable option for breakfast on-the-go, everyday lunches and after-school snacks. Each pack shows just how delicious their products really are. “These muffins are a true innovation as there is nothing else on the market that has vegetables as the first ingredient,” says Julie Gould, Assistant Brand Manager of Garden Lites.

They key to food marketing has become more consumer driven then ever before. Food packaging and labeling is key to drawling the consumer to your product. When Super Sprowtz put vegetable superhero characters on healthy snacks at a school salad bar, the number of students eating vegetables at lunch rose 250%. To understand the food market today, the food industry needs to know what their consumers want in the food they are buying. Then the food industry must market foods that satisfy those demands.

The Vital Importance of Child-Resistant Packaging

As a mother of 2, I am grateful for the laws that require household products to have child-resistant packaging. Unlike most 4-year-olds, my daughter loves to help clean the bathroom. But like most 4-year-olds, she loves to use the spray bottle.

Child-Resistant Packaging

Child resistant packaging can be cumbersome, and until I had children I didn’t understand its importance. I would not hesitate to make cynical remarks about politicians and “how they try to control everything.”

Although it may not always seem like it, lawmakers have good reason for child-resistant packaging. Products that are required to use child-resistant packaging and labeling include products and substances that have the potential to poison children. For this reason, Federal law requires these items to be specially packaged to help prevent that from happening.

This law is known as the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, administered by the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC is tasked with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death from consumer products.

The law defines this kind of packaging as “packaging that is designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open or obtain a toxic or harmful amount of the substance contained therein within a reasonable time.” However, the law contains a caveat that it “does not mean packaging which all such children cannot open or obtain a toxic or harmful amount within a reasonable time.”

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), Child-Resistant (or C-R) packaging must meet a number of performance specifications outlined in 16 CFR §1700.15. Information regarding performance specifications is available at the CPSC website.

Products are tested with panels of 50 children (42-51 months) are tested sequentially following division into three age categories . Children are instructed on how to open the package and are given 10 minutes to try. They are also permitted to use their teeth. The parameters required for passing the C-R test are outlined in 16 CFR § 1700.20(a)(2)(iii). If test results are inconclusive, additional testing involving one or more groups of 50 children each is required. A maximum of 200 children may be tested. Still, to meet the requirements packaging must only be inaccessible to 85% of participants of the study. This means that approximately 15% of children can still open child-resistant packaging within a few minutes.

Requirements for this type of packaging also test adult ability to open the packages. In fact, 90% of adults must be able to access its contents before the packaging is approved. Since child-resistant packaging can also end up inadvertently becoming ‘elderly-resistant’ or ‘disabled-resistant’, pharmacies are permitted to sell medications without the child-resistant packaging, provided that no children reside in the home where the medication is kept.

Despite best efforts, child-resistant packaging is never “child proof.” Many of the calls received by the Poison Control Center every year are the result of children accidentally ingesting pharmaceuticals, including those in child-resistant packaging. Pharmaceutical companies are urged to think of their packaging as a ‘last defense’ – not a ‘first defense’ – and continue to educate their customers on proper care and storage of medications as well as the potential dangers that can occur with improper usage of their pharmaceuticals.

Natural, Organic, Local, Grass-Fed – What’s the Difference?

Today we are all trying to make healthier food choices. However, it is not always an easy task. A lot of us have misconceptions about what food labels really mean. With so many different terms being used on food products these days – it’s hard to know what’s really healthy, and what isn’t.

Do these labels mean healthy food?

Natural, Organic, Local, Gluten-Free and Grass-Fed are all terms that alone sound healthy! But, what do these terms really mean?

Natural

In a survey of 1,000 people by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, nearly 60 percent of people said they look for the term “natural” on food labels when they shop.

About two-thirds of people surveyed said they believe the term “natural” means that a processed food has no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The truth is, the FDA has not developed a definition of this term for food labels. The FDA won’t object to the claim “natural” as long as there is no added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. So reality, there are no regulations. “Natural” processed foods can contain ingredients that are processed into artificial ingredients or come from plants with toxic pesticides. Meat labeled “natural” can come from animals who received daily does of antibiotics or growth hormones.

Consumer reports wants the misleading term “natural” dropped from food labels all together because there are no restrictions on how animals were raised or what can go into foods labeled “natural.”

Organic

Let’s start by stating “organic” does not mean “local”. According to an article in Time, 17% of consumers spoken with during a survey across the U.S. and Canada incorrectly believed that foods labeled “organic” were also grown locally.

Unlike “natural,” The United States Department of Agriculture regulates and verifies the label “organic.” They have established an organic certification program requiring all organic foods to meet strict government standards.

Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic plant foods are produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, sewage sludge, or bioengineering or ionizing radiation. A government-approved inspector must certify the farm to ensure these standards are met. In addition to organic farming, there are USDA standards for organic handling and processing.

There are three levels of organic claims on food labels:

  • 100% Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
  • Organic. Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.

Local

There is no legal definition of what makes a food “local.” However, the 2008 Farm Act states that any food labeled “local” must be produced in the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product. Many states limit local to mean produced within the state. In the aforementioned TIME article, 23% of consumers falsely believe that “local” products are grown organically.

Gluten-Free

The FDA requires products labeled “gluten-free” to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This ensures that products are free of wheat, rye and barley before being labeled “gluten-free”. Foods inherently gluten-free like fruits and vegetables can also be labeled as gluten-free. Gluten-free does not mean healthy or organic. Many products labeled Gluten-free are processed and contain refined sugars and salts. For more about gluten-free labeling, check out our previous post: ‘Gluten-Free’ Labeling.

Grass-Fed

First of all ‘grass-fed’ does not mean ‘organic.’ Grass-Fed has a voluntary standard put out by the USDA in 2007, which governs grass-fed claims using the following criteria:

  • Animals must eat only grass and forage throughout their lives, except when consuming milk before weaning. They can’t eat or be fed grain or grain byproducts, but food from cereal crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state is OK.
  • They must have “continuous access to pasture during the growing season.” The growing season is defined as the time between average last and first frost in the animal’s locale. During winter months or drought conditions, they must continue to eat only grass and forage — no grain.
  • Animals may be given routine mineral and vitamin supplements. Producers have to document anything not considered routine.

Under the standard, producers must obtain a USDA evaluation prior to using the grass-fed label or marketing a product as grass-fed.

The Bottom Line

Food labels are confusing, and the lines are even more blurred when there isn’t a specific, regulated definition of what specific labeling terminology can mean. Knowing the difference between different food labels is important to a healthy and informed lifestyle.

‘Gluten-Free’ Labeling

‘Gluten-Free’! What does it REALLY mean?
Gluten Free Labels

Before August 5, 2014, the term ‘gluten-free’ had not been regulated. Manufacturers were making their own call about what ‘gluten-free’ meant. Now, there is a real meaning behind ‘gluten-free’ labels established by the FDA.

For those who struggle with severe gluten intolerance, this is a great change in labeling standards. An autoimmune disordered called celiac disease that can occur in people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Before the FDA’s new guidelines people with this disease could get sick from gluten in products labeled “gluten-free”.

Now the FDA requires products labeled “gluten-free” to contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This ensures that products are free of wheat, rye and barley before being labeled “gluten-free”. Before, wheat had to be labeled on food packages, but barley and rye were often hidden ingredients – often dangerous to those with celiac disease.

According the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, under the new FDA rule if a product has a gluten-free claim, it either:

  • Inherently does not contain gluten.

Or the following is true:

  • Does not contain an ingredient that is a whole, gluten-containing grain such as wheat, barley, rye or crossbred hybrids of these grains.
  • Does not contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and has not been processed to remove gluten such as wheat flour.
  • May contain an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten such as wheat starch, as long as the food product contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Millions of people are buying foods that are labeled “gluten-free” even if they don’t have the celiac disease. The awareness of this disease has created an increase of options in grocery stores. According to an article in The Hill, “this standard ’gluten-free’ definition eliminates uncertainty about how food producers label their products,” said Felicia Billingslea, director of FDA’s division of food labeling and standards. “People with celiac disease can rest assured that foods labeled ‘gluten-free’ meet a clear standard established and enforced by the FDA.”