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Fair Trade USA to Review Labeling Policy

OAKLAND, Calif. — Fair Trade USA here is conducting a full review of its new labeling policy that would, in some cases, certify as fair trade products that have at least 25% fair trade ingredients, even if they also contain conventional components for which fair trade alternatives are commercially available.

Scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2012, the new standards would allow companies in with the understanding that, once certified, they'd work to transition conventional ingredients to fair trade certified.

“The policy itself is not very detailed and there are some concerns that it may be abused,” Stacy Geagan Wagner, director of marketing and public relations for FTUSA (formerly TransFair USA) told SN. “What we’ve said to our stakeholders, industry advocates, etc., is we hear you. We’re going to do a full review of this policy.” Results will be made public in December. In the meantime, FTUSA, is soliciting additional feedback.

The review comes a week after Fair World Project, a campaign of the Organic Consumers Association, expressed that unless FTUSA reverses its proposed labeling and commercial availability standards, it will no longer recognize the non-profit as a reputable fair trade certifier.

“We’re very concerned that consumers will have no ability to distinguish a product that is 100% fair trade vs. a product that is only 25%, which is the minimal threshold for receiving the seal,” said Ryan Zinn, director of the Fair World Project campaign. “Until we can have any sort of guarantee or process around that we can’t advise [consumers] to purchase these products, unfortunately.”

The policy changes are part of FTUSA’s new Fair Trade for All initiative, designed to double U.S. sales for fair trade farmers and extend fair trade benefits to millions of additional farmers and workers by 2015, according to FTUSA. Fair Trade for All was announced in September with the news that FTUSA will resign its membership from Fairtrade International on Dec. 31, due to a difference in perspective.

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