Certificates and seals are intended to create confidence in consumer goods, especially food. Their number has steadily increased in recent years. You must evaluate the products independently. Depending on the orientation, the focus is on the degree of ecological cultivation, fair trade, sustainable fishing or the type of farming. Not all seals apply the same standards. A seal that proves certain criteria is better than nothing at all. But as a consumer, you can quickly lose sight of things.
For producers who meet the highest standards, this can also be a costly nuisance as their products compete in the market with offers that do not meet their requirements. The beer and soda maker Lammsbräu, for example, lodged a complaint against the food giant Danone because it had adorned one of its mineral waters with the term “organic”. The responsible institute would tailor the certification to its customers, was Lammsbräu’s claim.
At first instance, the Upper Palatinate lost, but the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt reviewed the judgment and reached the opposite conclusion in April this year. Among other things, Danone no longer has the right to qualify its mineral water as organic quality mineral water or even as “premium organic quality mineral water”.
Sustainable food production is becoming more and more attractive, especially for mid-sized businesses, as banks increasingly offer better financing options. On the one hand, banks are being watched more closely by investors for whom sustainability is important. On the other hand, they must fear that future government regulations will reduce the lucrative value of less sustainable business models. Thus, they balance their loans and develop a greater willingness to promote sustainable businesses more strongly.
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Eggs from the organic supermarket. Certified products are appreciated by consumers.
(Photo: Johannes Simon)
Seals are not always a guarantee for durable products; consumers must also remain critical when it comes to labeled products. It is always advisable to consult the list of ingredients or the indications of origin. However, seals and logos can provide direction and help consumers choose products.
The German organic label
The hexagonal German organic seal with a light green border indicates that the food consists of at least 95 percent organically produced raw materials and does not contain any artificial flavors, colors or flavor enhancers. Cattle intended for slaughter are given organic feed only and should be kept as appropriate as possible for their species. Antibiotics are only allowed to a limited extent during breeding. The EU organic label largely meets the same standards.
Bioland, Naturland, Ecovin, Bio Kreis
German organic associations apply even stricter requirements when awarding their certificates. These include Bioland, Naturland, Ecovin and Bio Kreis. The Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland, Bund, recommends the purchase of these products. The organic labels of discounters such as Lidl (Bioness), Real (Real-Bio), Aldi Nord (PrimaBio) or Rewe (ReweBio) meet less stringent standards.
Meanwhile, consumers trust the still young certificate of fitness maintenance, which was introduced in early 2019. It is divided into four levels, with level four being the best possible for animal welfare. In a Forsa survey, 92% of consumers rated the label as good or very good.
MSC, ASC, Friend of the Sea
When it comes to fishing, MSC, ASC or Friend of the Sea certificates are intended to provide clarity. The Naturschutzbund Deutschland gives all seals the right mark, but calls for improvements. The foundation of the ASC was once shaped by the influence of many interest groups. Today, however, it is an independent organization. MSC lives mainly on certification costs, criticizes among others the environmental organization Greenpeace. Nevertheless, the seals are seen as steps in the right direction. Naturland certification, on the other hand, creates even greater transparency when purchasing fish.
Fair Naturland, Rapunzel Naturkost, Demeter, Bioland
The Naturland Fair label, which combines sustainability and fair trade, also meets the highest standards. The same goes for the hand-in-hand seal of the Rapunzel Naturkost organization, which supports hundreds of projects and social initiatives. Demeter has also been one of the strictest certifiers of sustainable agriculture for years. Bioland also gets very good reviews with little downside.