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Standards For Eco-Friendly Labels Still Green

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RALEIGH — Labels that read "Pesticide-Free," "100% Recycled" and "100% Unbleached" sound great. So are these claims true or just another way to market products?

Consumer Reportshas been investigating so-called "green" claims like these for more than a year. Its findings point to a problem.

"It's hard for the consumer to tell whether a label is just marketing hype or whether the product has actually met a certain set of environmental standards," says tester Urvashi Rangan.

TheUSDArecently adopted a set of standards for organic claims. However,Consumer Reportssays, ideally, there should be a set of standards products must meet for all environmental claims, and that an independent organization should make sure standards are met.

Thatisthe case for the Green Seal found on coffee filters and other paper products.

"The Green Seal label is a good label because an independent organization has verified that a specific set of standards about recycled content, and in this case about chlorine bleaching, have been met," says Rangan.

The "Free-Farmed" claim on some eggs, milk and meat is another that is independently checked. It means the product meets animal treatment guidelines set by the American Humane Association.

Not so for General Mills' use of the Nature Conservancy logo on its Nature Valley Granola Bars.

Consumer Reportsset up aWeb sitethat lets you search more than 150 environmental labels and claims to let you know what they really mean. That way you can be better informed before you buy.

Copyright ©2001 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All rightsreserved.


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