A food label can definitely be a good thing as it lets us know exactly what to expect in quality, ingredients, and manufacturing processes, but it can also get confusing with all the different food labels and certifications around these days. Our wholefood bluegreen algae supplements also have many of these certification food labels, so here's some explanations to let you know specifically what you can expect when you see these certifications listed on a product.
GMP – GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practices and refers to a set of guidelines established to ensure that food, drugs and dietary supplements are safe for people. Various agencies are responsible for the overseeing and regulating of these practices to promote food security. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) defines food security as being "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life." (http://www.sustainabletable.org/280/food-security-food-access). It takes into consideration not only the quality of food, but also the distribution, use, access to and how stable the food supply is. In the United States, the USDA is responsible for overseeing domestic or imported meat and poultry and any processed foods that have meat or poultry in them and products from processed eggs. Products not containing meat are overseen by the FDA. Dietary supplements have their own specific GMP certification program for products and testing standards that were developed by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation). This program protects consumers by testing for harmful levels of contaminants and certifying that supplements contain the ingredients listed on the label and nothing else. Dietary supplements that have the GMP certification assure the consumer that every ingredient is thoroughly tested for possible pollutants or contaminants and verified 100% pure. The bluegreen algae company we do business with maintains its own NSF International registered manufacturing facility according to the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices and are registered with GMP for Sport to insure the products do not contain any banned substances.
Organic – In order for a product to be a USDA certified organic product, it must be grown without any synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, sewage sludge, bioengineering methods, ionizing radiation, be irradiated or contain any genetically modified organisms. If it is a meat product then organically grown feed without hormones, antibiotics or animal byproducts must have been fed to the animal. Be aware there are various levels of organic certification. The only way to insure that all the ingredients are completely organic is to look for the label that says 100% Organic. If the label only says Organic then this is an indication that only 95% of the ingredients are organic and a label that says "Made with organic ingredients" indicates the ingredients contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Our microalgae and the company's facilities and the Klamath Lake watersheds are audited each year to insure compliance with organic requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program and is certified annually by OCPP/Pro-Cert of Canada.
Kosher – This label insures that the product meets Jewish dietary law standards. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations has been certifying foods that meet these standards for over 80 years. There are others that also certify products as Kosher and you may see labels with cRc, Star-K, Triangle-K and Kof-k. The product must pass inspections of its processing facilities and procedures for standards of cleanliness. This certification for meat assures that a shochet was used in a specifically defined manner in the slaughter of the animal and non-meat Parve foods will be labeled as such to assure it does not contain meat and has not come into any contact with meat or dairy products. Our algae products that have this certification receive it from Star-K of Baltimore, MD who inspect the facilities, products and documentation each year as well as any vendors that supply the company with kosher certified products.
Halal – This label insures that the product meets the Muslim dietary law standards. The most common labels you will see indicating a product has this certification is the logo of The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America which is a Crescent M or the Muslim Consumer Group with a triangle, the group's name and the letter H in the center. Our algae product facilities and processes are inspected by IFANCA and our whole algae and algae with the cell wall removed both have received the Halal certification.
Vegetarian – This label on products indicates that there are no ingredients that come from animals although it may or may not have been tested on animals. If the product is labeled as 100% vegetarian ingredients then it does not contain meat but might contain eggs or dairy. This label is not regulated by any particular organization, but those with the Vegetarian Society logo are the most reliable for claiming to be vegetarian.
Vegan – This label assures the consumer that there are no ingredients from animals or animal byproducts in the product, in the manufacturing of the product, and no animals used in testing done on the product. The Vegan Awareness Foundation or Vegan Action is responsible for the administration of this certificate which a company must renew each year. You will only find this label on products made by companies in the United States, Canada and Australia and the company must show that they clean and sanitize any machines, surfaces, utensils or vessels that are also used in producing non-vegan products before a vegan certified product run is begun.
Gluten Free – This label from Quality Assurance International and National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is based on yearly inspections, verifying of ingredients, testing of products randomly, and audits that are not announced ahead of time to insure that a product contains less than 10 parts per million of gluten, the protein found in many grains.
Paleo Friendly – This label was developed by The Paleo Foundation, Inc. to certify products as meeting the Paleo Diet standards including that they are grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free and use no artificial additives or preservatives. There are also other conditions put on certain ingredients that are allowed such as any poultry products must be from cage-free animals, seafood must be wild caught, true nuts and nut flours are allowed and most animal products must be from pastured animals. A company displaying this logo is subject to unannounced inspections of their commercial kitchen, manufacturing plant or processing center and products can be inspected to verify compliance with the requirements.
GMO Free – The United States does not require labeling of foods that have been genetically modified or genetically engineered, but a company may choose to have their products labeled as verified GMO-free with the Non-GMO Project seal. A yearly audit and on-site inspections are used to verify that these products meet the standards for having no ingredients using genetically modified organisms.
Knowing what is in your foods and whole food supplements is important not only to help you choose those that fit with your ethics, values and possibly religious mandates, but is important for some people to insure they are not using products that will exacerbate any medical conditions or allergies they may have. You can see a complete list of the labels and certifications held by our bluegreen algae supplements HERE.