Labels That Tell You a Lot | Food & Water Watch
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Labels That Tell You a Lot

The majority of labeling confusion could be avoided if the government established labeling requirements and certified that producers met the standards before the label could be used. But to date, the USDA organic seal is the only label for meat, dairy and eggs with that level of government involvement.

The USDA Organic seal is one label to look for. For a product to wear the green USDA organic seal, it must meet the following standards:

  • Crops cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers, synthetic chemicals or sewage sludge.
  • Crops cannot be genetically modified or irradiated.
  • Animals must be fed only organically grown feed (without animal byproducts) and cannot be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics.
  • Animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants (hoofed animals) must have access to pasture. (The enforcement of this standard is actually the subject of much controversy within in the organic movement, especially for dairy cows.)
  • Animals cannot be the cloned.

One label to look for — and avoid buying products with it — is “Treated With Irradiation.” In retail stores, food that has been irradiated must be labeled and marked with a radura symbol. Unfortunately, this labeling policy does not apply to restaurants, schools, hospitals or processed foods containing irradiated ingredients.

The Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for labeling irradiated food, has been under intense industry pressure to weaken labeling rules and allow the use of “pasteurization” in place of ‚irradiation.” In 2007, FDA announced a proposal to make this change, but as of early 2008 had not yet changed the rules. For now, the irradiation label is one that clearly alerts consumers of foods to avoid. Click here for more reasons to oppose food irradiation.