Organic, certified organic, bio-dynamic, fair trade, GMO-free, forest-friendly, all natural, whole foods – the bombardment of confusing labelling on produce can be baffling enough to have you reaching for a home-brand alternative. A lot of the time, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re buying, especially with many non-organic brands using confusing terms and images that mimic genuine organic food labelling. Are they all good for you, for the environment, for the farmers and traders?
The best way to find out is to become familiar with what the terminology means and how food industry standards work. So before reaching for a “natural, organic, fair trade, whole food” product, take a look at the definitions listed below to get an understanding about what you’re really (or not really) buying. This list is a guide to some of the most common natural and organic food labels found on products that are destined for sale in Australia.

  • Organic food

On food labels, terms like “organic”, “quality”, “gourmet” and “natural” are subjective terms that do not represent any kind of industry standard. They can be freely used on food, cosmetic and textile labels on packages sold in Australia, despite whether the contents or ingredients are organically produced. This is because they are dynamic terms that could refer to the style, feel, effect or some other subjective aspect of the product, rather than the production or cultivation of ingredients.
For foods that are destined for export, the term “organic” is more stringently regulated, and should only be present if the ingredients of the product have been grown using organic agricultural methods free from pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilisers and GMOs.

  • Certified Organic food

 In Australia, the label “Certified Organic” is regulated by third parties such as NASAA and ACO and is rarely used on the labelling of organic foods that do not comply with their standards. On food, cosmetics and textiles packaging sold in Australia, the use of a logo pertaining to one of Australia’s seven organic certification regulators guarantees that the product has been certified as an organic food or product. The seven regulation companies are as follows:

  • Fairtrade

Fairtrade (one word) is the label given to products in Australia and New Zealand which have been independently audited along the supply chain to ensure that they comply with strict social, economic and environmental standards. Farmers, workers and traders in the country of the product’s origin are audited by FLO-CERT (a separate international certification company), while traders and licensees in Australia and New Zealand are audited by FLO-CERT or Fairtrade ANZ. The most important Fairtrade standard which must be met in order for a product to carry the Fairtrade Mark is paying farmers and workers a fair price for their work.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg in understanding food labels and the mass of terms used to inform (or confuse) consumers. If you’d like to know more about organic and fair trade labels, leave a comment below to request an overview. To browse fair trade products, organic food and whole foods at our online store, click here. To learn more about the health benefits of organic foods and whole foods, read our article Why Choose Organic?