Even in countries where it is known to stand for 'organic' production, the word can be found on other products - such as French company Danone's famous Bio yoghurts which are not at all produced via organic methods. he added.
The CI report includes twelve recommendations to support consumer rights.
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Food labelling has perennially been a thorny issue, with standards and requirements differing vastly across the world.
The EU, for example, has worked to harmonise rules across the 15 (now 25) member block, but has faced numerous problems of language and interpretation, not to mention resistance from companies (on issues such as brand names, definitions and the sheer cost of changing labels).
The most important is that labels and claims on food should be clear and unambiguous - where they are not, enforcement action should be undertaken to ensure that they are, CI suggests.
The organisation also recommends that misleading and unsubstantiated images should not be used to convey inappropriate messages, particularly about production methods (pictures of chickens roaming free on boxes of battery-farmed eggs, for example), and that all food standards for food labels and claims should be developed with stakeholder involvement and be publicly available, open and accessible so that consumers can be sure of their validity.
But claims are not only explicit - many are deliberately vague, too, and these should be clamped down on, CI suggests, pointing out that phrases such as 'meets legally required standards' are being are vague and irrelevant, implying a high level of quality and welfare which may well not be included in the regulations.
Focusing specifically on so-called 'green' claims (such as natural, bio, organic, animal welfare, traditional farming, etc.), UK-based Consumers International teamed up with eight national consumer protection organisations in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Romania, Slovenia and the US to assess the number, quality and impact of 'self-declared' labelling claims.
The aim was to investigate whether a product's 'green credential' was valid - whether it was actually produced in the sustainable and ethical way that was claimed.
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