Fair Trade USA reacts to criticism with labeling policy review

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fair trade

Fair Trade USA has said it will conduct a full review of its forthcoming ingredients labeling policy in response to criticism from other stakeholders in the Fair Trade industry.

The new policy for fair trade certification is due to come into effect on January 1, 2012, and in some cases would allow products to be fair trade certified if they contain just 25% fair trade ingredients, even if they contain non-fair trade ingredients for which fair trade alternatives are available. The intention is for companies to move from non-fair trade to fair trade ingredients following certification.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA, spokesperson for Fair Trade USA Sarah Wagner pointed out that the minimum requirement under Fairtrade International guidelines is for 20% fair trade ingredients. She added that its 25% threshold applied to products with multiple ingredients only, rather than single ingredient products like coffee or bananas.

Following feedback from other fair trade groups, Fair Trade USA has said it will review its new ingredients labeling policy and announce the results of the review, along with any possible adjustments, by December 1.

“We are conducting a full review of our new ingredients labeling policy in light of the feedback we are receiving, and to gather additional stakeholder recommendations on this policy. We want to make sure that we get this right,”​ the organization said in a statement.

“…We want everyone to know that the development of our ingredients labeling policy, like everything we do, is guided by a profound commitment to social justice. All of our efforts aim to support and empower hardworking farming families around the world who struggle to survive and who look to us all for hope.”

Fair Trade USA’s new labeling policy was announced in September as part of its Fair Trade for All program, which aims to expand the impact of fair trade and double US sales for fair trade farmers by 2015. At the same time, Fair Trade USA said it would resign its membership from Fairtrade International at the end of the year due to differences in perspective.

In particular, the Fair World Project – a campaign group of the Organic Consumers Association – has criticized Fair Trade USA for not publishing details of its proposed labeling policy, and for its decision to withdraw from Fairtrade International.

The Fair World Project said in a statement: “In the long run, everything from consumer apathy to competing labels that make similar claims will undermine the fair trade market and the overall positive impact for producers.”

Fair Trade USA said it takes stakeholder concerns very seriously, although it added that some of the issues raised “may be based on a misinterpretation of our approach.”

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