What this isn’t: an exhaustive A-to-Z list. What it is: a quick primer on terms you may encounter in food and product descriptions.
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Often shortened to “cruelty-free”, this marketing term is used on everything from makeup and cleansers to clothing and food. Typically, it means the product wasn’t tested on animals, or doesn’t contain animal products (e.g., leather). But, sometimes, it is meant to convey the “ethical” treatment of animals.
NEXT: Biodynamic →
“Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition,” states the Biodynamic Association, which credits Dr. Rudolf Steiner as the approach’s founder. You’ll mostly see this “organic”-ish term on wine labels in SG.
NEXT: Biodegradable →
The Oxford Dictionary defines this word as: “capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms and thereby avoiding pollution.” Check for it on product packaging (e.g., paper, plastic), food and beverage containers plus “disposable” dinnerware.
NEXT: BPA-free →
BPA stands for Bisphenol-A, a chemical used to make some reusable plastics – and that has been linked to health issues, particularly in infants and children in utero. These days, many plastic products claim to be “BPA-free”, but they are not necessarily chemical-free. To be safe, experts suggest that you not heat plastic food or drink containers, as it can cause such chemicals to leach out.
NEXT: Free-range →
This mostly undefined term can refer to meat and dairy foods, such as eggs laid by “cage-free” chickens or milk from “pasture-raised” cows. It does not, however, mean the animals were treated “humanely” – only that they spent some time in “natural” conditions.
NEXT: Ethical →
“Humane” and “socially responsible” are synonyms for this term, which is used to indicate that neither the environment (including animals) nor society (including workers) were harmed in the collection, production or sale of the goods.
NEXT: Fair trade →
Unlike, say, “ethically sourced” products (per above), there is an actual Fair Trade Certified label for food (e.g., coffee beans, seafood). Meaning? They cannot be sold for less than a certain price. This helps to ensure the livelihood of farmers, fishermen and workers.
NEXT: Natural →
“Natural” should mean that something is derived entirely from plants, animals, microorganisms or minerals, sans fossil fuels. But – like “clean”, “pure”, “safe” and “wholesome”– it is primarily a marketing term, with no legal definition.
NEXT: Chemical-free →
“Chemical-free” is another marketing claim that refers to a product that doesn’t contain artificial chemicals (e.g., parabens, mineral oil). It is not the same thing as “non-toxic”, which simply means something has been tested, and won’t poison you.
NEXT: Reclaimed →
This refers to wood that has been previously used (e.g., in a barn), or may be “upcycled” from various sources.
NEXT: Sustainable or Renewable →
“Sustainability” is the “quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources” and “supporting long-term ecological balance,” cites Dictionary.com. The term is often used in tandem with “renewable” – as in, resources (e.g., solar power), plants (e.g., hemp) and food crops (e.g., rice).
NEXT: Animal-cruelty free →
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