At the Choice Choices Forum, Joe Breskin demonstrated a prototype shelf labeling system intended to provide Coop Shoppers with easy to use information showing how the products fared when compared to their basic expectations. This effort addresses The Food Coop's Ends Policy A3 ""  In the months since the Choices Choices Forum, the Coop's Product Selection Guidelines Committee has been developing and refining a matrix that could allow us - and other coops as well - to evaluate every product in terms of Nutritional, Social, Environmental and Criteria based on our own Food Coop's adopted policies.

We are clearly NOT alone in this effort. Other Coops and many non-coop retail organizations including Home Depot and TESCO (one of the largest retailers in Europe) are already implementing product labeling programs. Many of these programs focus only on carbon footprint, but there is mounting pressure to integrate country of origin, conditions of production (such as Fair Trade or Sustainable Harvest certification) as well as more meaningful nutritional information than is currently provided by manufacturers.

Generally, it can be stated that the manufacturers are resisting increased disclosure of nutritional information while protesting easy to understand systems such as Red, Yellow and Green "traffic light" symbols indicating safe to unsafe levels of Fat, Saturated Fat, Salt, and Sugar. In the USA, the USDA and FDA are both relaxing their ingredients labeling requirements and the specificity of terms used on labels.

The proposal for a shelf edge label was offered at our Choices Choices, and the example below was demo'd and discussed. The 'radical' concepts it carries are the quantification and specification of local (our coop sells 'local' coffee!), the ratio of packaging calories to nutritional payload calories (discussed in considerable detail in a Coop Commons article last year), full disclosure of markup on the product, and number of stops between producer and consumer. What makes this approcach meaningful to our member-owners is that it is based directly and completely on our own Coop's value-based polcies, not some compromise developed by a coalition of spin-doctors working for manufacturers and mainstream retailers who have no interest in values that extend past their corporate bottom line.

What other organizations are approaching product labeling?

Food labelling debate on a collision course

"One of the main problems in this ongoing food labeling debate is that both sides appear to be so deeply polarized. For example, many in the food industry believe that, while the GDA scheme is criticized for being too complicated, the FSA's traffic light labeling scheme, which rates each product as high (red light), medium (amber light) or low (green light) in the four key nutrients (fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar), is far too simplistic."

USDA clearly has been thinking about it.
This does not mean they have been thinking clearly of course ...


Food Traceability: One Ingredient in a Safe and Efficient Food Supply. NOTEL This website will not be available from 6 pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) Friday 4/6/2007 until 2 pm Sunday 4/8/2007

And LOTS of people outside the "organic business of food" are getting into the act -

And Carbon Foot Print Labeling

Home Depot to Apply Carbon Foot print Labels

n the most significant step announced yesterday, the UK's biggest retailer, which produces 2m tonnes of carbon a year in the UK, said it would put new labels on every one of the 70,000 products it sells so that shoppers can compare carbon costs in the same way they can compare salt content and calorie counts.

Energy Use in the Food Sector: A data survey
This database can be used for estimating the energy use for various food items over their lifecycle. The applicability of the database is exemplified by estimating the energy requirements of a hamburger with bread, lettuce, onions, cucumbers and cheese. The possibilities for lowering the energy use of a hamburger are discussed briefly on the basis of the results.

... by Jamais Cascio (author of the Cheeseburger Carbon Footprint)
Late last month, the UK's environment secretary, David Milbrand, proposed putting ecological impact labels on all food products sold in UK stores. These labels would focus on the amount of carbon emitted as the result of the production of the food item. In this, the UK government is playing catch-up with some of its businesses, as the grocery chain Tesco announced in late January that it would be adding carbon labels to the products it sold. And now the Carbon Trust, a UK non-profit that works with businesses to reduce their greenhouse impacts, has embarked on an effort to build a labeling standard for adoption across industries.

The Port Townsend Food Co-op's Product Selection Guidelines Committee concluded its work and completed its chartered mission in June 2008 and submitted a final report to the Board. The Committee's final report to the Board included a request for a rechartering of the committee to continue work it had identified as essential and long overdue: updating the Food Co-op's Product Selection Guidelines - a document that was written in 1984 and no longer reflected the reality of a globalized food distributiion system or the development of a rapidly expanding " Corporate Organic" industry that was gobbling up our traditional suppliers. Both the Committee's final report and the recharter requests are provided in this document. Further documentation includes a discussion draft from the last meeting that is generally modeled on the Food Coop's Boycott Policy. It was offered with no expectatiuon that it would be adopted, but to define the boundaries of a discussion of the issues involved in the updating of our product selection guidelines and to demonstrate some of the reasons that frequent review/reevaluation of existing products was advisable. This concern has proven to be prescient and in 2010 we can see that several of our traditional mainstay suppliers such as WhiteWave (Silk Soy products) and Golden Temple have opted to abandon organic ingredients in their product offerings, apparently believing that the "old-guard" organic shoppers are dismissable - because those shoppers no longer represent a meaningful percentage of their market.

The 'old' version of this site - with lots of coll material that has 'gone missing' from these pages is still available

There is a moderated text-only listserve associated with this site. To join, click this link and signup.

There is also a wiki FOODFIRST associated with this site, in which PSGC member John Barr has compiled content from the past 8 months of email-based discussions.

Content © 2006-2007 The Port Townsend Food Coop PSG Committee
A Chartered Committee of the Food Coop's Board of Directors