Transparency = Trust
You’re standing in the grocery store aisle. Everywhere you look there are labels making all kinds of claims. When you pick up that “certified” item at the grocery store, we know you’re wondering: Does this label really mean anything?
A certification system is only as meaningful as the “truth” behind its label. Therefore our number one commitment is to transparency. The Agricultural Justice Project, stakeholders are made up of non-profit organizations, farms and food businesses with a long history of advocating for increased transparency and integrity in organic certification. We are committed to developing a system without loopholes, and a label that consumers can trust.
We have built transparency into our program in many ways:
High percentage requirements for multi-ingredient productsThe certification label on your box of mac-n-cheese is only as truthful as its labeling requirements are strong.Your favorite processed foods, like granola bars or pasta sauce, are made up of many different ingredients coming from many different farms and processors. When you see a certification label on the front of a processed product, you expect that all of those ingredients, farms and processors involved met the standard. The label should mean that the actual food in that package is certified.Whether or not that is true depends on the labeling requirements.
Companies “Apple Happy” and “Super Sauce” make the exact same product. Their raw ingredients (apples, sugar, cinnamon) come from the same farms and processors. Apple Happy carries “A” certification. Super Sauce carries “B” certification. In the grocery store, both jars of apple sauce look exactly the same – with a full color label on the front panel.However: Certification “A” has a very low labeling requirement for multi-ingredient products. Certification B’s requirements are much higher. Apple Happy only has to use certified sugar to qualify for full use of the label. Super Sauce has to have certified sugar AND apples. Which one would you rather buy?
Even though the products look the same in the store, Super Sauce is using a more transparent label – their Certification “B” means more.Food Justice Certified RequirementsThe AJP partners have developed the Food Justice Certified multi-ingredient labeling requirements to be as high as we believe is possible. We require that 95% of the dry weight of the product (meaning the weight without water content) is certified before full use of our label is granted.Anything short of 95% says “Made With” or is listed only in the ingredients panel. Have questions? Contact us! Knowledge is power – ask your other favorite labels what percentages they use.
Processor and Brand Holder Certification Requirements
When you see a social justice or fair trade label on apple sauce, you expect that the workers on the farms that grew the apples, cinnamon and sugar were covered by the standards. You also expect that the farmers received a good price for their produce. But what about the workers in the processing plant that prepared the apple sauce? Or the employees of the company that manufactures it and owns the brand name? Again – this is about truth in labeling. Labor abuses can happen at any level in the food chain, not just on the farm. We believe that a label on the front panel of a product should be truthful – was the company itself certified or just the farms they buy from? We developed a three tiered labeling system to make these differences obvious to consumers.
Public Consultation Process
We believe that social justice certification should be a 360 degree review. To honor this, AJP has developed an additional step in our certification process that allows you, the public, to communicate directly with the certifier of a particular farm or business if you have concerns. This process allows community members to speak out and let certifiers know if there are issues that deserve further investigation before a farm or business becomes certified. Visit our public consultation page to learn more.
“Participatory Process” – Standards and Certification Program
AJP recognizes that we are not the experts. The farmers, farmworkers, restaurant owners, processor workers, and all other food system stakeholders (including you the consumer!) are the real experts.
AJP has made it our mission to include stakeholder representatives in every step of our development. We have also convened a formal advisory committee made up of representatives of each major stakeholder group to oversee all of our work and keep us on track.
The FJC Standards themselves were developed over a decade long process of compiling input from stakeholders world wide. Navigate to our Learn More tab at the top to read about our standards development.
We also believe that stakeholders should play more of a role in actual certification. That’s why we include a representative of a workers’ rights organization in the audit team that inspects any farms or businesses with hired labor.
Please give us feedback! Our standards and policies are living documents. Help us make our system more transparent, representative and fair by sending us your thoughts.