Food Certification

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This page describes our system of Food Certification, which is currently under development.

This page is a work in process and, at a given time, individual points here may not reflect the full consensus of the group.

Banned ingredients and practices

  • Partially hydrogenated oils, i.e. artificial trans-fats
  • Any animal products where the animals have been subjected to routine use of pharmaceutical drugs, i.e. animals fed antibiotics as part of their feed or injected with growth hormones. The use of pharmaceuticals to address specific medical needs in individual animals, as they come up, is not prohibited, so long as these are isolated cases and not the norm or standard.

Labelling requirements

Our certification requires packaged food to be labelled when it contains certain ingredients or has been processed in certain ways. It also requires labelling to be honest in spirit.

Labelling requirements in this section require prominent labelling on the front of the label of foods, or on the main menu entry next to menu items in a restaurant.

Things required to be labelled under this section include:

  • Genetically-engineered organisms (GMO's) and meat fed GMO ingredients
  • Sugar added to foods that are not clearly dessert foods
  • Artificial sweeteners in any foods
  • Any food containing artificial ingredients or highly-refined ingredients that do not occur in traditional foods
  • Foods normally expected to be vegetarian or vegan that contain or were prepared using animal products.

We also have further restrictions on labelling:

  • Labels cannot make claims rounding up to 100% or down to 0%.
  • Any claims must correspond to what a typical person in society at large would be likely to interpret them

These labelling requirements may seem impractical or burdensome when applied to modern processed foods; this is intentional. We intend that our food certification will primarily be applied to whole, natural foods that are produced in such a way that few, if any of these requirements are applicable in most cases. Part of the idea behind this certification is to provide a realm of the marketplace for food products where the burden is on the producers for labelling when they are adding artificial ingredients, harmful ingredients, or producing their food in ways that may have undesirable effects on animal welfare or the environment.

GMO's and genetic engineering

Although the term GMO is in widespread use, we have been using the term genetic engineering to distinguish the practice of directly modifying an organism's genome from selective breeding, which is a more gradual form of genetic modification.

We require the labelling of any food that contains GMO's to be labelled "Contains genetically engineered ingredients". In a single product, like corn starch, which is primarily from GMO source, the product must be labelled "Genetically engineered".

Animal products, such as meat and dairy, from animals that have been fed GMO ingredients in feed must be identified as such: "From chickens fed genetically-engineered feed." or "From cows fed genetically-engineered corn."

Added sugars

Any foods that are not clearly dessert foods or other foods expected to be sweet, must identify on the label if they contain any added sweeteners.

Dessert foods, like cakes, cookies, ice cream, and other foods that are clearly expected to be sweet, such as Frosted Flakes cereal, would not be required to be labelled in this fashion.

If a product is labelled or named with a specific sweetener, but contains sweeteners, they must be identified. So for example, a "Honey" cereal which also contains added sugar must identify: "Contains sugar as well as honey."

Artificial sweeteners

All artificial sweeteners must be labelled in any foods, even if they occur in dessert foods or candy. If a specific sweetener is displayed on the front of the label or prominently displayed anywhere other than the ingredient list, then the main sweetener must be listed, and the notice must display "and other sweeteners" if there are others. For example, it would be prohibited to say "Sweetened with Sucralose" on a food containing both aspartame and sucralose.

Artificial and highly refined ingredients

We do not have a strict definition of natural or artificial, but rather, require people to label ingredients that are not used in traditional foods. Currently we require to label:

  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Modified food starch
  • MSG
  • Artificial colorings
  • Artificial flavorings

For example, traditional corn tortillas are processed using lime or calcium hydroxide. This would not be required to be labelled under this section. However, a highly refined, pure chemical, even if extracted from a plant, would be required to be labelled. For example, an herbal tea blend must be labelled if it contains added citric acid, even if the citric acid is derived from a natural source, but an herbal tea blend containing hibiscus to impart a similar level of sourness would not need to be labelled.

This section potentially has gray area and we can discuss specific cases as they come up.

Exceptions to these requirements

Ingredients do not need to be labelled if they are widely understood to be an integral part of what they are contained within. For example, a soft drink or soda contains carbonation, which would normally fall under the requirements of this section, but it is widely understood that sodas are carbonated, so anything clearly presented or marketed as a soda would not need to note the carbonation. However, a drink that people would not normally expect to be carbonated must be labelled as such.

Food normally expected to be vegetarian or vegan

Things normally expected to be vegetarian or vegan must identify when any animal products are included in them, and must identify the type of animal. Even if no animal products are in the finished product, otherwise vegetarian items must identify animal products directly used in production. For example, sugar processed using bone char must identify: "Processed using bone char." or cookies made with lard or beef fat must identify: "Contains pork products." or "Contains beef products." or more specifically "Contains lard." or "Contains beef fat."


Labels cannot make claims of 100% or 0% when actual portions have been rounded up to 100% or down to 0%. For example, a product that contains 0.5% sugar by some measure cannot claim "Sugar free". Rounding is allowed for portions in between these extremes.


Any claim on the label must be truthful when interpreted the way it would be likely to be interpreted in society at large. For example, when advertising chicken products as "free range" or "cage free", it is not sufficient to have an industry standard or even a legally-recognized standard definition if this definition does not fit what people unfamiliar with these standards would reasonably expect this label to mean.

Produce-specific labelling requirements

Produce must be labelled with any synthetic chemicals that were used during its production. This includes, but is not limited to, pesticides, herbicides, and defoliants, but does not include fertilizers.

We have not yet decided how to require labelling of fertilizers.