Welcome to the age of product certifications! Pick up a product at the grocery store today and really look at how the labels have changed – you’ll notice all kinds of letters indicating various certifications for that particular product. But what exactly does all that mean to you? Let’s take a look at each one and by the end of this blog, I’m hoping you’ll have a better understanding of each one of them.
Gluten Free Certification:
This is a big one and it affects millions of people. Gluten is a protein found in foods processed with wheat and it gives elasticity to dough. It’s also found in cosmetics, beer, soy sauce, ketchup – the list is pretty extensive.
There are 3 organizations that can certify a product as gluten free. The Gluten Intolerance Group (GFCO), the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA), and the National Foundaton for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).
The US Food and Drug Administration’s gluten free label requires foods to have a measurement of less than 20 ppm of gluten; the Gluten Intolerance Group and National Foundation for Celiac Awareness tests foods to 10 ppm of gluten, and the Celiac Sprue Association, to 5 ppm of gluten. In addition, these organizations require yearly certifications that include reviewing ingredients, testing the product, and inspecting the manufacturing plants where the product is made.
When a company is applying for a gluten free certification, as a consumer you should know it costs time and money – therefore the companies that seek this certification tend to be very committed to serving the gluten free market. If a manufacturer has gone to the trouble of being certified, it’s very likely they will adhere to the strict standards once the inspectors have left the building! Remember to use the certifications as a guideline but use your body’s reaction to the product as the final verdict as to whether or not you can tolerate it.
This shows the product does not contain animal or byproducts that have not been tested on animals. The vegan logo is administered by “The Vegan Awareness Foundation” which is a 501 © nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about veganism and to help out vegan friendly businesses. To be vegan, the product must not contain meat, fish, fowl, animal by products (which includes silks or dyes from insects), eggs or egg products, milk or milk products; no animal testing; it must show verification that no animal products were used in manufacturing of ingredients, and that no animal derived GMO’s or genes were used to manufacture the product.
This certification refers to not only a strict compliance with food laws pertaining to cleanliness, purity, and quality, but also refers to a set of laws that detail the types of food a Jewish person may eat and the ways in which it may be prepared. There are 3 categories; meat, dairy, and pareve. (what is pareve you ask….foods that are neither meat or dairy – like eggs, fruit, veges, pasta, candies, snacks, etc)
This is the big one everyone is talking about and with very good reason! GMO’s or ‘genetically modified organisms’ are plants or animals created through gene splicing techniques or genetically engineered – in other words, it merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plants, animals, bacterial, or viral genes that do not occur in nature. The Non-GMO Project is the ONLY third party verification program and label in the United States for non-GMO food and products. Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly on the label – it shows strict standards and compliance with transparency and consistency! Most cereals, snacks bars, cookies, processed lunch meats, and crackers contain large amounts of high risk food ingredients…over 80% of our food contains GMO’s! (I was even floored to learn that fact!) Common GMO foods include soy, cotton, corn, sugar beets, squash, alfalfa, papaya, and canola to name a few.
Organic vs Natural:
Sounds like the two should be synonymous but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Organic food production is regulated by a third party government accredited certifying agency who’s job it is to be sure farms and processors follow a strict set of federal standards that promote sustainability and that avoid substances that are hazardous to the environment or human health. The USDA administers and regulates the Organic Seal under the National Organic Program. When you see this label, you know the product contains at least 95% of organically produced and processed ingredients. A label that reads “100% Organic” contains 100% organic ingredients. “Organic” contains a minimum of 95% of organic ingredients and the remaining 5% are produced using no GMO’s or irradiation. “Made with Organic Ingredients” means a minimum of 70% of organic ingredients are used while the remaining 30% are produced using no GMO’S or irradiation.
A “Natural” label, on the other hand, is not regulated. There isn’t a set of standards to adhere to and is used as a marketing tool to try to appeal to health conscious and environmentally aware consumers. Can you believe foods that contain high fructose corn syrups or GMO’s can be labeled “Natural”? The only time the USDA steps in is when that label is applied to meat, poultry, and eggs. If you see “Natural” on those products, it means it has no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. Beware though, it does not mean antibiotic or hormone free! (We’ll save that one for another day!)
So be aware, pay attention to the labels on the products you’re purchasing, and support those that go the extra distance to be sure they’re fully certified and transparent to you, the consumer. Chia Star is dedicated to health and transparency to the consumer, and we’re very proud to display our certifications!