Speaking of telling people what’s in the package of food product they happen to be purchasing, I’ll digress for a moment from the realm of government regulations to talk about some non-governmental identifiers that impact food packaging and labeling these days. These include those motivated by religion, such as Kosher and Halal, as well as those motivated by socioeconomic and ethical concerns.
Kosher and Halal are easy to navigate. For Kosher certification, you must meet the requirements of the Orthodox Union, which means they will issue questionnaires and inspect your facility to ensure compliance, then license the use of their trademark to you. Similarly, in the United States, the same holds true for Halal certification, the difference being that the certifying body is the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA). When you consider how many consumers are members of these religious groups, you can appreciate how important it is to understand what is required to obtain these certifications.
There are other, non-religious considerations that impact consumer decisions but have nothing to do with compliance with food regulations. One example is Fair Trade Certified™. Fair Trade certification involves requirements similar to the religious certifications above but is administered by a non-profit that exists to generate revenue through certification and licensing to use to improve working conditions, healthcare, and educational access in third world countries in particular, which is where a lot of our favorite food products originate. It’s a noble cause and for many consumers, paying a few cents extra per pound of Fair Trade certified coffee over its uncertified counterpart is worth it.
Another big concern among consumers is genetically modified organisms, or “GMOs”. There is much debate indeed over the safety of food derived from GMO sources. In Europe, soy and maize products can have no more than 0.9% GMO content, and due to “adventitious contamination”. Who knows what that means? I had to look that one up the first time I saw it and I still don’t know.
Here in the old US of A, there have been states, particularly in New England, who have tried to implement regulations requiring companies to notify consumers of the presence of GMOs in their product packages through labeling. Those efforts were quashed by the federal government, and there is still no real standard. This state of affairs has given rise to the Non-GMO Project®.
The Non-GMO Project is a group of interested parties who got together and decided if the government wasn’t going to do anything to make GMO labeling transparent, they would do it themselves (at least that’s how I see it). So, taking their cue from the other groups I’ve mentioned, they registered trademarks and will license them for use on products that meet their standards. They will send questionnaires and audit facilities and approve or reject a producer’s application for a license to use their trademarks. You can see these displayed prominently in groceries that specialized in organic products and the like.
Next week: What’s “natural”?
For more information on this topic, please contact Scott Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Scott Lloyd is a registered patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property counseling and commercialization work. He has served as a technology commercialization specialist and advisor to companies in a diverse array of markets, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and beverage, specialty chemicals, technology, and engineering. In addition, Mr. Lloyd spent ten years as in-house general counsel to small and mid-sized companies, where he managed corporate matters and resolved commercial disputes in addition to intellectual property strategy, and now serves in the same capacity for entrepreneurial clients. He serves as counsel to small and mid-sized business owners seeking to implement growth strategies and succession plans.
While in house, Mr. Lloyd has also contributed to the successful formation of international affiliates of domestic businesses as well as a $400,000,000 business acquisition.
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