Fair World Project Letter to IMO re Fair for Life Label Use

November 4th, 2012

To IMO Senior Staff,


I am writing to follow up on our October 23nd email with respect to the labeling questions we discovered on Whole Foods Market’s private label “Fair for Life” chocolate bar. In response to our concern that a Whole Foods private label chocolate bar carried a Fair for Life label on the front panel, you referred us to IMO’s Fair for Life Module 1 section (d), which states:


Retailers who market Fair for Life products under their own private brands are NOT considered brand holders if:

  • The products are produced by a Fair for Life certified private label or brand company which has responsibility for the fair raw material sourcing and labels the products in the name of the retail brand AND IF
  • The product label indicates the name of the certified manufacturer of the product with references to its Fair for Life handler certification, e.g. “produced for company x in country y by company z (Fair for Life certified).


As you know, the bar in question did not make such a statement on the label. Since we first contacted you, it has come to our attention that Trader Joe’s also has a private label chocolate bar that similarly uses the Fair for Life label on the front panel with no reference to the manufacturer (photos included). Neither Whole Foods Markets, nor Trader Joe’s are listed on IMO’s Fair for Life website as certified or registered operators.


In addition, upon further investigation, it appears both bars are likely in violation of the policy for use of FFL seal on the front panel as stated in module 1.1.1 h and annex C of the same module. In the case of Trader Joe’s, the front product panel references only fair trade cocoa and not any other certified fair trade ingredients. If it is only the cocoa that is certified, according to IMO’s labeling policy, the ingredients that are certified should be indicated as the total would fall short of 80%, and Trader Joe’s would not be allowed to use the Fair for Life seal on the front panel. In the case of the Whole Foods bar, the individual ingredient, cocoa, is indicated in the ingredients list, therefore more clearly acknowledging that other ingredients, notably the first ingredient, sugar, are not fair trade. Therefore, the FFL logo should not appear on the front panel. We call your attention to these concerns as additional questions for clarity.


As you know, Fair World Project recognizes brand holders certified to IMO’s Fair for Life as full supply chain committed brands. As an organization tasked with consumer education, Fair World Project needs to ensure that our own policies and communications are clear and consistent. We are requesting clarification with respect to the above-mentioned products. If these two examples represent a change from your currently stated labeling policy or if there are additional Fair for Life policies relevant to packaging and label claims, we will need to reconsider your fair trade criteria. If these cases represent an enforcement issue, we insist that IMO address this question immediately or we will need to take this information to brand-holders and the public.


Thank you in advance for your time and we look forward to your prompt reply.




Dana Geffner

Executive Director

Fair World Project

2 thoughts on “Fair World Project Letter to IMO re Fair for Life Label Use

  1. So, what came of this? What’d you hear back from IMO? I’m doing some research in preparation for World Fair Trade Day and want to be sure I’m adequately prepared to discuss the different organizations…

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