CHOICE assesses top 10 food endorsement logos

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th March 2010

Choice magazine has assessed the top ten independent endorsement labels in Australia, putting each certification through its paces on transparency, consumer friendliness, conflict-of-interest management, stakeholder engagement, equitable participation and verifiability of compliance.

The ten programs reviewed were:

  • Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
  • National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) certified organic
  • Fairtrade
  • GI symbol
  • National Heart Foundation tick
  • Organic Growers of Australia
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • RSPCA ‘Paw of Approval’
  • Dolphin safe
  • Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia (FREPA)

While all these certifications provide very different information on food products, CHOICE found that most can be trusted to provide accurate and ethical verification of product origins, with top marks awarded to the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and NASAA Certified Organic labels – the two labels fulfilling each of CHOICE’s stringent criteria – and an honourable mention to Rainforest Alliance.

The nutritional labels – Heart Foundation Tick and GI symbol – received wrist-slaps for lack of public consultation on their standards. RSPCA, while otherwise consistent, lost points for using their own employees for accreditiation checks, instead of independent auditors. Fairtrade and Dolphin Safe were black-marked for using random audits of a cross-section of producers, instead of regular compulsory checks.

Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia (FREPA) rounded out the bottom of the ‘room for improvement’ list, as a logo both published and worn by members of FREPA, a group of free-range producers, processors and packers. While standards are freely available and independently audited, they are decided on by member producers rather than publicly accountable methods.

Labelling organisations welcomed the CHOICE research.

“It’s no surprise that consumers find the huge variety of labelling endorsements confusing given the wide range of claims now available on our supermarket shelves. We congratulate CHOICE for undertaking this analysis to make it easier for consumers to know who they can trust to guide them to a healthier food choice.” said Susan Anderson, National Director – Healthy Weight, of the Heart Foundation.

The RSPCA also welcomed the report. “We know that consumers are increasingly baffled by food labels, with recent market research revealing one quarter of shoppers are confused and a third of shoppers don’t trust labels at all,” said RSPCA CEO Heather Neil. “Through RSPCA Approved Farming, we want to take the guess work away from consumers who are seeking higher welfare alternatives.”

The full CHOICE article is available on the CHOICE website.