Please Explain: Eco-Labels

Friday, November 13, 2009

Your broccoli, shampoo, and air conditioner might bear labels declaring them to be organic, cruelty-free, or energy efficient, but what do those labels mean and are they true? On today’s edition of Please Explain, Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Project Director for Consumer Reports' and Consumers Union’s Senior Scientist for Policy Initiatives, and Dara O'Rourke, founder and CEO of, will take a look at what eco-labels indicate, how standards are set, and what they mean for consumers and manufacturers around the world.


Dara O'Rourke, and Dr. Urvashi Rangan,

Comments [15]

jeffrey zajac from highland park, nj

do the italian "digestivi" bitter after dinner drinks really aid digestion?

Dec. 11 2009 01:56 PM
jjl from

10-- yes. millions of people grow their own food b/c they have a problem w this. i am contemplating same.

Nov. 13 2009 04:11 PM
rebecca from brooklyn

I have not once heard on NPR any mention of the coming harmonization to Codex Alimentarius standards for every country belonging to the WTO. Please look into what these standards mean for those who wish to eat organic and have access to high potency vitamins.

Nov. 13 2009 02:39 PM
Chris from NYC

Farm Sanctuary has done extensive research on what labels mean what in the meat, egg and dairy industry. For anyone interested on the topic, its well worth the 70 plus pages.

Nov. 13 2009 02:29 PM
Amy from Manhattan

At NYC's Greenmarket, some of the vendors aren't USDA certified but have info posted at their stalls on how their products are raised or made. I asked a Greenmarket rep how these claims are verified & was told that CENYC actually went to the farms & checked. So customers can read the info & decide for themselves. (Many small farms are actually organic but aren't USDA certified because the paperwork & other bureaucratic requirements are onerous.)

Nov. 13 2009 02:01 PM
Grocery store porduce eater from The Garden State

So at the end of the day, it sounds like shopping at Whole Foods for produce, dairy and meat is no safer then shopping at Stop and Shop?

Nov. 13 2009 01:58 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On sugars, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ( says most foods labeled "fruit juice sweetened" use "juice" that's been so stripped down that it's not much more than sugar water & doesn't really have much nutritional value.

Nov. 13 2009 01:54 PM
Ryan from Jersey City

I understand the "Free Range" label on eggs means very little. If I want eggs that are the product of truly free-range hens, how can I know what to buy?

Nov. 13 2009 01:50 PM
Fish from brooklyn

So what labels can we trust with all these loopholes? Is there anything that is full-proof. Do you have a list somewhere?

Nov. 13 2009 01:50 PM
sean from brooklyn

FROM 2000-2008 FUNNY

Nov. 13 2009 01:47 PM
Troy from Carroll Gardens

Can you talk about potential labeling for geographic origin labeling for food? Seems like that can be just as important, if not more-so, environmentally speaking, than whether it's organic or not. Is that something that may be required in some places at some point?

Nov. 13 2009 01:46 PM
Ben from Brooklyn

Could you explain the difference between farm raised, organic and wild salmon (or other fish)? Other than the price that is!

Nov. 13 2009 01:40 PM
Paul from United States

Can you comment on new laws allowing corn and corn sillage to be used in grass fed beef. Does this not change the omega 3 fatty acid content.

Nov. 13 2009 01:34 PM
Seth from Upper West Side

It all sounds like trendy marketing. It's the same problem with "herbal" medical and vitamin products. There needs to be a more rigid and dependable system of regulation.

Nov. 13 2009 01:27 PM
Grocery store porduce eater from The Garden State

A while back I almost bought a bag or cheap organic frozen broccoli that was grown in China. With the scare of lead paint, tainted milk and lackluster regulation enforcement of environmental practices in farm land and manufacturing facilities in China, did I do the right thing by putting the bag down and instead bought fresh non organic broccoli grown in the United Sates? Should I trust anything labeled “organic” from any country. Ironically it seems foreign grown organic produce is the cheapest. How can this be good for the environment and the organic slow food movement that insists everything has to be grown and made local?

Nov. 13 2009 01:00 PM

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