Quality seals for food: a guide to the label labyrinth

From ‘organic’, to ‘Fairtrade’, to ‘vegan’ – these days there are hundreds of quality seals. Many of them offer helpful guidance – for restaurateurs, too, when they shop in the wholesale store. But what exactly do the seals mean and which are widespread internationally? MPULSE lights the way through the label labyrinth.

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Quality seals on food offer guidance when shopping. But which seals are relevant internationally and what do they mean? Here is an overview.
Organic, vegan and co.: an overview of quality seals

What´s it all about?

  • Important quality seals for food 
  • Which labels are widespread in Europe?
  • A closer look at organic, vegan, Fairtrade and more.

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    Fairtrade seal 

    When it comes to fair trade and better working and living conditions for small farmers in developing countries, the Fairtrade seal  is well known. It’s mainly found on products like coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas and wine. The basic principle of the seal is that small farmers receive a minimum price for their goods, which is considered a safety net and should cover the costs of sustainable production. There is also a bonus for growers who invest in social and environmental community projects. For METRO, Fairtrade products like coffee from own brand RIOBA are as much a matter of course as partnerships for sustainable and fair production conditions, for example, on the Ivory Coast
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    V label

    The internationally recognised, green-yellow V label  comes in two variations – one for vegetarian products and the other for vegan. The ‘vegetarian’ seal identifies products that do not contain any animal components. Certain ingredients like milk or honey are permitted in the manufacturing process. However, products with the ‘vegan’ seal are completely free from all ingredients of animal origin at all stages of manufacturing and processing. The V label is also used for product categories like cosmetics. System catering businesses can also be certified.  
METRO offers a broad range of vegan and vegetarian foods, including numerous own brands. The selection ranges from plant-based milk alternatives  to vegan mince.

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    Protected designation of origin 

    In 1992, the EU introduced three quality seals for regional and traditional food. The first is the ‘protected designation of origin’ seal, which guarantees that a product is grown, processed and prepared in a particular region, for example the Allgäuer mountain cheese. The second is the ‘protected geographical indication’ seal, which has less strict requirements. For example, Nürnberger Lebkuchen gingerbread must be produced in Nuremberg but the ingredients can come from other regions. The third is the ‘traditional speciality guaranteed’ seal, which indicates traditional manufacturing or ingredients but says nothing about origin. One example here is hay milk, a special cow’s milk produced under traditional production conditions. It sets itself apart by the fact that it prohibits the use of fermented and genetically modified fodder. All products that bear one of these three seals can be found in an EU database.
fish labels offers guidance

Fish labels offer guidance

How do restaurateurs know they can buy and offer tuna with a clear conscience? Fish labels are one example of the guidance that identifies sustainable tuna.

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    The five-level colour scale with letters A to E helps consumers to compare the nutrition values of foods within a product category more easily, for example, several different yoghurts. The Nutri-Score  – also known as food traffic lights – is a voluntary marking. When the nutritional profile of a product is calculated, fibre, protein, fruit and vegetables have a positive influence, while saturated fats, salt, sugar and a high energy content are considered problematic. In 2024, the Nutri-Score calculation changed; since then, plant-based oils with plenty of unsaturated fats have been given better scores. In the METRO range, healthy and nutritious products are becoming increasingly important. One goal  is to further increase the number of own brands with less sugar, salt and saturated fats.  
  • Black and white stamp

    Rainforest Alliance

    The international organisation Rainforest Alliance awards its seal to foods from around the world, like coffee, tea and cocoa, which come from sustainable agriculture and fulfil various ecological, social and economic standards. For example, the certified farms must protect forests, soil and water sources, observe human rights and guarantee reasonable salaries and working conditions. The label with the little green frog is very common: according to the Rainforest Alliance, it appears on over 54,000 products in 190 countries. Some of them are also found in the METRO product range. In line with its sustainability strategy, METRO promotes future-oriented trade both within its operations and also in its collaboration with partners and suppliers. 

Label compass  to see you right

If you need information about a quality seal, Label-Online is the place to go. The website lists a variety of common quality seals in Germany and around the world inevery category from A to Z.

Further articles