Sunday, May 19, 2013


Ever since mandatory front of the pack labeling became a part of the processed food industry landscape, debates continue unabated regarding the sufficiency or otherwise about the information provided on these labels by the manufacturers. Consumers are always happy to get as much information as possible on the label which will help them to make judicious choice while doing their purchase. While the major aspects of labeling cover information with regard to nutrition, weight, manufacturing date, expiry date etc, increased consumer awareness about sustainability issues, water wastage, carbon emission, energy usage etc, appears to be generating an entirely new labeling initiatives broadly called ecolabeling.  As consumers seem to be appreciating such an initiative, ecolabeling is becoming an important consideration in a fiercely competitive market. Unfortunately the ecolabeling field is getting too much crowded with all and sundry offering such certification based on different standards without any uniformity.

"Growing consumer awareness of food production methods and sustainability issues has led to the rise in recent years of ecolabels in the food industry; over 200 seals and logos currently represent some ecological, ethical, ingredient or sustainability attributes in the global food industry. That number is expected to rise in 2013, and the mushrooming number of ecolabels could have adverse consequences, according to specialty research consultancy Organic Monitor. The company will present its latest findings on the global market for ecolabeled food and drink at the upcoming Sustainable Foods Summit. Organic products comprise the bulk of the estimated US $75 billion ecolabeled food and drink market. Most sales are from Europe and North America, which have legally protected organic logos. However, many new organic labels are being introduced in Asia, Latin America and other regions – over 84 countries have introduced national standards for organic products, with most having separate organic labels. The lack of harmonization between these standards is leading to multiple certifications and an exponential rise in organic ecolabels".

Organic foods movement which started about two decades back has achieved tremendous success because of the consumer perception that commercially produced foods by the mainstream industry was ignoring the environment and safety of the citizens while marketing their products. Most ecolabeling to day is focused on such consumers who are more concerned about sustainability of many activities in the day to day life routines. What is appalling is the proliferation of organizations selling their sustainability logos based on different and varying standards resulting in confusion for the consumers for making informed choices. It is against such a background that a need is keenly felt to consolidate various standards and bring about a uniform one for adoption by the entire spectrum of food industry.   

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