Product Label Demystification

Product Label Demystification

By Alina Hornfeldt

When you look at a label on a product, whether it is a food, body care item or supplement, do you know what all the symbols and standards mean? Organic farming and labeling were once a fringe movement that has been adopted by the mainstream. Most health-conscious people are aware of the required USDA standards to be met to carry that little green circle. But what about the others? Biodynamic? Fair trade? How can you make the best choices for yourself, your family and for the planet?

Biodynamic is a relatively new certification originated by the German organization Demeter. Organic farming certification requires certain standards be met such as non-GMO seeds and refraining from the use of chemical pesticides. Biodynamic farming goes beyond organic. Demeter’s standards for growing include: fully sustainable farms, animal welfare, crop rotation, and biodiversity on the farm. In addition, seeds are planted and the plants harvested by the moon, the sun and the planetary cycles. The farm is considered to be a self-contained, living organism. When you purchase products, especially supplements, with a biodynamic certification label, you can be assured that you are receiving an extremely high quality product. To learn more about biodynamic certification, visit

Fair trade is another standard beyond organic with which consumers should familiarize themselves. Fair trade means that the farmers from developing nations were paid adequately for their goods and services. Many mainstream products, such as coffee, shea butter and chocolate, come from places where workers are expected to work for absurdly low pay in horrific conditions. Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization and leading third party certification that works with more than 800 companies across the U.S. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies these companies to assure the consumer that when they see their label, it means that the product carrying it meets international fair trade standards. These standards include equipping farmers with the information and training they need to get a fair price for their products which then enables them to rely less on foreign aid, keep kids in school, improve health and housing and strengthens communities. To learn more about fair trade practices, visit

Biodynamic and fair trade are just two of the types of symbols you will find on food and supplement labels. If you have more questions about labeling or where products come from, the knowledgeable staff at Mastel’s are always available to work with you. They make sure to staff their small store well so there is always someone available to assist customers. If browsing on your own is more your style, be assured that the shopping environment is “no pressure”. As you learn how to read labels and become more informed about what the symbols on them mean, you will feel confident that you are making the right choices for you, your family and the planet.

Alina Hornfeldt is the marketing manager at Mastel’s Health Foods. Find her work at