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The Looking-Glass Ethical Clarity Labelling Campaign ...
The NOVA
Key©

Frequently Asked Questions

1. The NOVA Key label on its own doesn't help people with food allergies so how will I find this information?

2. What about a Vegan label?

3. How will the lettering on the NOVA Key make sense in non-English speaking countries?

4. Relating to the "N" in the NOVA Key: How is it used?

5. Wont the NOVA Key make shoppers even more paranoid about what they are eating, wearing or putting on their skin?

6. How and when will the NOVA Key be put into affect?

7. Can manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants start using the NOVA Key now? (And if so, why aren't they?!)

8. Will Pet Foods display a NOVA Key?

9. What about medicines?

10. How will restaurants and takeaways use the NOVA Key? Won't this label be rather excessive if added to each item on the menu?

11. What about cosmetics and beauty salons?

12. How does the NOVA Key affect other labelling schemes?

13. How will the "A" for Animal testing work? Is their a back date from which ingredients and products tested on animals are exempt from a "cross"?

14. How will the "A" for Rainforest Friendly work? Is their a back date from which ingredients and products grown or reared in former rainforest areas are exempt from a "cross"?

15. Will small supply shops and web stores providing specialist goods be able to label products themselves with the NOVA Key?

16. Can use of the NOVA Key be regulated? How will consumers know if the manufacturers are lying or not about the ingredients in their products?

17. There's a lot of contention about what constitutes "organic". What's the content percentage of NOVA Keyed product before it can be displayed without a cross on the O?

Q 1. The NOVA Key label on its own doesn't help people with food allergies such as "gluten" "nut" or "wheat" content, so how will I find this information?

Answer: If necessary to the type of product, a separate "Allergy Information" box attached to the side or below the label will contain this information (see example below). On beauty products, this will also mean that ingredients known to cause allergic reactions must be included in the separate information box.
However, regardless of the NOVA Key, allergy information is usually made clear by law as part of a product's ingredient listing. This will be taken into account with whichever country's governments adopt the complete NOVA Key implimentation.
So not to be confused between ethics and allergies, the NOVA Key label itself is designed to give the consumer instant viewability to the most commonly required ethically / environmentally based information - Allergy information remains a separate but equally important issue.
(See more about other labelling schemes at Q 12)

NOVA Key in Action
Allergy Information: May contain nuts. Gluten Free. Wheat Free. Contains E213 (Calcium benzoate) which may cause allergic reaction

Q 2. What about a Vegan label?

Answer: The "V" on the NOVA Key also very clearly shows when it means "Vegan". If the letter "V" is underlined in light green, then it is vegan. If there is no green underline it is only vegetarian. It is that simple!
This useful option will mean that a vegan can easily recognize the difference between a NOVA Key label that is only suitable for vegetarians or suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. Obviously, if a product displays the "suitable for vegans" option then it goes without saying that it will be suitable for vegetarians as well!
See the differences below.

The V options in the NOVA Key The Vegan option in the NOVA Key

Q 3. How does the lettering on the NOVA Key make sense in non-English speaking countries - particularly in places like China where the written language is entirely different?

Answer: Even in China, many domestic items display Roman text (and often in English) simply because so many products originate from other countries that have standardized English as a common medium for labelling household appliances etc. However, the information at the bottom of each NOVA letter will be in the language of the country where the product is sold. Therefore, in countries where the lettering of "N,O,V,A" may not mean anything more than just shapes to some people, they will soon recognize these "shapes" as symbols relative to the description written below them in their own language.
Where products are exported and imported from one country to another, the NOVA Key information, by law will have to be displayed in the language of the country in which the product is being sold. You may notice that many products already show ingredients and manufacturing details in various languages, so the NOVA Key will be displayed in the same manner.

Q 4. Relating to the "N" in the NOVA Key: How is it used?

Answer: The "N" shows if a product does or does not contain genetically modified ingredients or ingredients from cloned animals" Like this example:

The N in the NOVA Key

If a product contains GM ingredients or cloned animal products then it is not organic either. There is never an occasion where the "N" in NOVA is crossed but the "O" isn't. There will of course be times when the N is not crossed but the "O" is crossed.
Due to the continual rise of GM (genetically modified) contamination of non GM and organic crops, government legislators are "moving the goalposts" to compensate for what appears to be ecologically unavoidable trace GM contamination into non-GM crops. (Which will increase while GM growing and production spreads). This means it is always necessary to have a separate "N" and "O" so that future changes in GM vs Organic thresholds can be reflected through indications on The NOVA Key. For example, if GM free crops are legally allowed to be called non-GM even though they are contaminated with GM traces, then the "N" on The NOVA Key threshold will be set to reflect these threshold changes over time. In which case you may one day see a NOVA Key labelled with a clear "N" but of which the subtext says "This product is 99.9% free of GM. If it is crossed, it may say "This product contains approx. 35% GM". As time goes on and the ecological and ethical problems associated with GM contamination and cloning grows, the NOVA Key "N" will evolve to reflect these changes with ethical clarity.

On non-food products the "N" is crossed if it contains animal products or derivatives from cloned animals or plant materials from GM crops.

On the "O" for organic, for example, on recyclable or biodegradable printed paper; the print ink may contain chemicals but the entire product meets the "above threshold" requirement of 95%, meaning the "O" can be left uncrossed. In other examples, clothing may be subject to a cross if it is made mainly of non-organic materials.

Q 5. Since so many products aren't entirely natural, wont the NOVA Key make shoppers even more paranoid about what they are eating, wearing or putting on their skin?

Answer: Most people are already aware that many products they buy are not entirely natural. (Even some foods that claim to be "organic" are not!) (see Q 12). The NOVA Key will give consumers an informed choice, and when the key is commonly in place it will provide a transparent source of information for both ethical and non-ethical shoppers. In other words, consumer psychology suggests that for some people, a labelling system like the NOVA Key may not make the slightest difference to their buying trends, but to many others, this clear labelling system will be a very welcome addition to help them make informed choices. Take cigarettes for example, in countries where hard-hitting warning labels are legally required on cigarette packaging, such as "smoking kills" etc., this will not stop some people from buying cigarettes if they so choose. If they want to smoke, they will. If a consumer wants to eat sweets full of artificial colouring and animal fats they will.
In fact, with some products, the information that the NOVA Key provides may even open up more buying options for some consumers. (For example, how many people realise that some bacon "flavoured" potato chips are veggie, but many cheese flavoured potato chips aren't!)
Apart from this, the NOVA Key may encourage manufacturers to take a closer look at the origins of the ingredients they are putting into their products. This includes additives or "E Numbers" which can be derived from either animal or non-animal sources. The E-Number (or its chemical name) may be called the same thing on a product's additive list, but how the additive was derived to begin with is a grey area; it might be from an animal - or it might not be! A food additive's name alone does not tell you the origins of its constituent components, which is very irritating for veg*ns. For example, the food colouring additive E161g also called Canthaxanthin (Natural Orange Colour Xanthophylls) - is usually derived from plant material, but it can sometimes be made from fish and invertebrates with hard shells.
(See
Food Additives at VeggieGlobal Nutrition)

Q 6. How and when will the NOVA Key be put into affect?

Answer: The NOVA Key is currently a registered and copyrighted concept - an ethical labelling campaign designed to encourage world governments to adopt the Key as a legal requirement on all products. It is already in use by one small business in its BETA form, and more are expected to follow.

The BETA period invites manufacturers to apply for a NOVA Key licence through this campaign (see Q 7 below). This part of the programme will help support our campaign while giving manufacturers the opportunity to show that perhaps they do care about the ethical choices of YOU ... the consumer. When, and if your country's government makes The NOVA Key a legal requirement, manufacturers will then have to deal directly with them.
So even though this campaign might be popular with, for example, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, who would eventually like to see this system quickly adopted and made law. At present it is an option for manufacturers etc, to adopt the NOVA Key, subject to a licensing arrangement. But with your help, the key could eventually become a government legistaltion. The more people who actively vote or better still, also get in touch with government food departments or trading standards authorities in their own country telling them about the NOVA Key, this could help the campaign enormously! After voting here why not write to your government's food / trading department and include the web address of this campaign so they can see for themselves?
We will continue to build support for this campaign and make every effort to make the NOVA Key a world-wide standard ... so please vote now. If you would like to inform your country's government about this campaign then send them either of the following web address:
http://www.looking-glass.co.uk/novakey/index.htm

Q 7. Can manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants start using the NOVA Key now? (And if so, why aren't they?!)

See question 7 above.

Q 8. Will Pet Foods display a NOVA Key?

Answer: Pet foods will need to display a NOVA Key just like food products for humans. Whether some animals are vegetarian or not, some animal owners like to have a clearer idea of what kind of ingredients are being put into their companion animal's dinner.

 

Q 9.What about medicines?

Answer: Pharmaceutical manufacturers will also be required to add the NOVA Key to their products. Many people - vegetarians in particular - feel uninformed about animal content in medicines and whether or not they have been tested on animals. Patients should be given an ethical choice as to what optional medicines can be prescribed to them, thus avoiding those containing animal products. For example, many tablets come in capsule form - and the capsule casing itself can often be made of gelatine. The gelatine capsule has no active relationship with the medicine inside the capsule. Often, there is a non-capsule alternative of the medicine and therefore the patient should be made aware of this. By adding the NOVA Key to all medication packaging, doctors, pharmacists and patients alike will be clearly informed of any ethical questions regarding manufacturing origins.

 

Q 10. How will restaurants and takeaways use the NOVA Key? Won't the general use label be rather excessive if added to each item on the menu?

Answer: Restaurants will have the option of displaying a menu-friendly version of the NOVA Key, which blends perfectly with any style of menu design (see below). Thin, subtle lettering showing the essential NOVA information. Restaurants can choose black or colour versions. Remember, if the "V" letter doesn't have a green band below it then the dish is not suitable for vegans ... only vegetarians. This slim design will also apply to cosmetics and salons as an option.

Restaurant NOVA Key  - black Restaurant NOVA Key - colur

See examples of the Restaurant NOVA Key in action on the restaurant examples page
This unobtrusive slim and stylish design of The NOVA Key would be added to every item on a restaurant menu including sweet dishes and even the wines list. (Remember that many sweet and cheese dishes are often not suitable for veggies). So, the appropriate crosses on the NOVA Key means no more asking uninformed waiters if the vegetable curry contains chicken stock, or if the gateau has gelatine in it!

To give you a clear example - McDonald's French fries contain beef extract. And independent reports found on the Internet in 2002 suggest that Pizza Hut's pizza sauce contains cheese made with animal-derived enzymes. (Looking-Glass campaigns contacted Pizza Hut asking them to confirm this one way or the other, but they never responded.)

 

Q 11. What about cosmetics and beauty salons?

Answer: A visit to your hair or beauty salon can also be a moral dilemma without the NOVA Key. As part of the NOVA Key labelling campaign proposals, all hair and beauty salons and health retreats etc., should display a clearly visible list of products they use, labelled with the NOVA Key, and "red-crossed" accordingly. If the A and V is crossed on some products, you will know straight a way that the product was tested on animals (and automatically not suitable for veg*ns)
As with foods and clothing, cosmetic companies would be required to use the NOVA Key on each product.

Note: Cosmetic companies, clothing manufacturers and beauty saloons will be able to use the same graphics as restaurant menus.

 

Q. 12 How does the NOVA Key affect other labelling schemes?

Answer: Because the NOVA Key's unique concept serves an extended purpose for all consumers, any country's own labelling system can still be used in conjunction with it. For example, in the UK the Vegetarian Society has their own licensed label which is used by some manufacturers. Vegetarians feel comfortable having an independent organization determining veggie suitability by showing a "V" sign. However it's important to remember that even though items "approved" by such organizations provides authentication, there are still thousands of other unlabelled products that may actually be suitable for veggies, but aren't labelled so, which means you can't tell. And even more importantly, there are also thousands of products that may appear to be veggie ... but aren't, and not labelled to help make this clear. This why there is confusion with random, "one-sided" partisan labelling, which can unfortunately cause more confusion than it tries to solve. This confirms why it's clearly necessary to have a "blanket label" such as the NOVA Key, which shows, for example, when a product is or isn't suitable for veggies etc. (see "V" example)
But overall, independent labelling by organizations and the universal role of the NOVA Key applied on the same packaging can give extra reassurance and both labels therefore harmonize with each other perfectly.
If anything, it will be in the interest of other ethical labeling organizations to work and share their endorsements with the NOVA Key and visa versa, since the Key will provide the public with an overall indicator of ethical choice.

Note 1: The common recycling label and other ethical labels such as "Fair Trade", "Soil Association" "Leaping Bunny" type certifications can also work synchronously with The NOVA Key.

Note 2 (repeated from introduction page):
It's important to remember that the NOVA Key is a unique validation / clarification system. By design, it stops confusion and consolidates a fairer and more transparent relationship between manufacturer and consumer ... the best possible way for manufacturers to build trust with you the customer. Use of the NOVA Key means that thousands more products can potentially become more transparent for the consumer, whether veggie, organic, natural, animal tested or not.
If and when adopted by your country's government, the NOVA Key would be a legal requirement on all products. But even before that, manufactures who aren't afraid to provide an honest description of their products and therefore gain customer respect, can apply for a license to use the Key
(See Here). Manufacturers using the NOVA Key aren't judging ethics, they are simply informing you the customer about the content of their product. They have no reason to be dishonest. If they do mark their Key incorrectly, a periodically adjusted trust rating will reflect this on the online listing of manufacturers using the NOVA Key.So it's in the interest of the manufacturer to be honest, and that means customers will feel more trusting of manufacturers that use the Key ... whatever their ethical choices might be. It's a win-win situation. Obviously, it will be hoped that manufacturers will find the ethical guidance of the NOVA Key an inspiration to fine-tune their products and become more ecologically friendly. If so, they will be able to remove crosses from their product's NOVA Key in the future. But the important thing in these initial stages is that you, the consumer can buy with confidence, whatever your preferences.
Remember, the crosses applied (or not) on each letter which spells "NOVA" is the important clarifying aspect of NOVA's impending success as a universal key.

 

Q 13. How will the "A" for Animal testing work? Is their a back date from which ingredients and products tested on animals are exempt from a "cross"?

Answer: This will aim to be in line with stipulations set out by the Co-op and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) in the UK. Products, or product ingredients tested on animals any later than 1985, or for toiletries and their ingredients tested on animals later than 1997 will require a red-cross on the NOVA Key letter "A". Products not tested on animals after those dates will not need to cross the "A" on their NOVA Key.
The "A" for animal testing may need to be crossed on non-food products if it contains a chemical additive (such as glue) which has been tested on animals since 1985.

 

Q 14. How will the "A" for Rainforest Friendly work? Is their a back date from which ingredients and products grown or reared in former rainforest areas are exempt from a "cross"?

The "A" must also be crossed if:
a) A product contains ingredients sourced from plantations created through the destruction of rainforests or other forms of environmentally sensitive, natural habitat, whereby its ecology and therefore resident wildlife has suffered a severe reduction in numbers; threatening the survival of species. The threshold date for this condition is any natural forest land such as rainforest, which has been cleared to plant crops after 31st December 1989.
b) A manufactueres meat based product contains meat from farmland created through the destruction of rainforests or other forms of environmentally sensitive, natural habitat, whereby its ecology and therefore resident wildlife has suffered a severe reduction in numbers; threatening the survival of species. The threshold date for this condition is any natural forest land such as rainforest, which has been cleared to farm livestock after 31st December 1989.

The NOVA Key has determined 1989 as a suitable cut off a point: A period when significant changes in global biodiversity began to be recognised, as a decline of natural world species began to fall more sharply, and global warming - due to accelerated deforestation and other damaging exploits of the earth by humans - started to show a more severe drop in ecological sustainability than in previous years.

 

Q 15. Will small supply shops and web stores providing specialist goods be able to label products themselves with the NOVA Key?

Answer: In some circumstances, yes.
For example, a shop or website selling ethical wares and foods etc. can apply to use The NOVA Key on their website and on individual products. Due to the risk that they may be penalized if any of the products they are selling are mis-crossed, they will have to take extra care that their suppliers provide them with a clear ingredients listing as a guide to how its NOVA Key should be marked (initialised). For example, if a web store wants to add a NOVA Key next to each product description, then it's up to the web store to mark the NOVA Key correctly, otherwise the entire webstore will suufer a significant percentage loss on their trust rating.

 

Q 16. Can use of the NOVA Key be regulated? How will consumers know if the manufacturers are lying or not about the ingredients in their products?

Answer: If the NOVA Key was legislated in your country then the first line of defence to any stop misuse of it would be your country's government government, who would incur penalties to those misusing the Key by incorrect initialisation of relevant N,O,V,A letters.
However, in the interim period when manufacturers can apply for a NOVA Key licence prior to the Key becoming a legal requirement, (see Q.7) the NOVA Key website runs its own regulating system whereby NOVA Key licensed manufacturers displaying a NOVA Key which isn't correctly crossed on relevant N,O,V,A letters will be reflected by their "Trust Rating"
This is how it currently works:
The NOVA Key site has a user's table which displays the product, the manufacturer and the correctly initialzed NOVA Key of the particular product. This table is the all-important measure as to how the NOVA Key will work for you, the consumer, as well as keeping manufacturers in check who are using the Key. If you notice that the NOVA Key initialisation on the table is diferent to that on the actual product, or that you find an ingredient in the product's ingredients list which doesn't match the intialization of the key, then it may be that the manufactuer has miscrossed the product's NOVA Key. If it transpires that the discrepency is a fault that could have been avoided, the manufactuers trust rating drops. This "violation" is more friendly than it sounds, because it allows manufacturers to rectify their mistakes within a given period, as follows:
The NOVA Key wants to give manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants etc., the chance to understand the ethics of correct non-partisan labelling Ė an education. So each time they make a mistake on the NOVA Key marking, their trust rating will fall one third for a three month period, in which time they are given an opportunity to rectify the mistake. For example, if a tin of peas wasn't showing a red-crossed "O" on the Key when in fact the peas were not organically grown, then that product will receive a three month penalty. Based on the sell by date or batch number etc., the product will have a reduced trust rating on the NOVA Key website table. Manufacturers will have three chances to get their NOVA Key crossings right on each product. After that, they will be removed for 3 years before being allowed to reapply that product onto the NOVA Key system. Itís something like a points / driving ban on a driverís license. If a restaurant or a deli-style shop etc. selling home-made produce violates the NOVA Key in any of their items, the entire establishment's trust rating will be reduced for three months. This is because these establishments are NOVA Key "blanket" licensed for all their produce, not individual products.
So, to recap. You the consumer can inform the NOVA Key anytime you suspect that a NOVA Keyed product has been incorrectly marked. The NOVA Key requires manufacturers to inform its admin of any changes to ingredients which may alter their products' NOVA Key initialisation. E.g. if the ingredient listing on a productís label begins to differ from the ingredients that the manufacturer or restaurant has submitted to the NOVA Key and displayed on the website table, this will be the first indication that a manufacturer isnít adhering to the rules. Remember, you, the consumer, will be able to inform the NOVA Key administration if you find any products, restaurants etc., that you believe are misusing the Key.
If any manufacturer or establishment is using the NOVA Key who is not on the website list then they are doing so without licence or permission. Such misuse will be clearly shown as blacklisted on the NOVA Key website and action will be taken.

 

Q 17. There's a lot of contention about what constitutes "organic". What's the content percentage of a NOVA Keyed product before it can be displayed without a cross on the "O"?

Answer: 95% organic content is required to ensure the "O" of the NOVA Key is left without a cross. This is in line with various independent organic labelling organisations.For example if a tin of vegetable soup is manufactured as being organic, the vegetables used must meat organic criteria, This may still mean that some chemical sprays are used, but the organic percentage is measured as 95% or over.
If the NOVA Key is used on non food products - for example jewellery, the organic credentials can vary depending on the overall use of natural materials and any solvents used in jewellery fixing like glue. In such an example its likely that the jewellery NOVA Key crossing will have an uncrossed "O" because even though the glue used may be of chemical origin it is likely to only add up to under 5% of the overall jewellery piece.
Non food items made from reclaimed materials of unknown conistency must cross the "O" on the NOVA Key and probably the "V" as well as it may contain animal derived ingredients.

 

Finally
If anyone thinks that this NOVA Key is too complicated then here's the address of a web site where one can buy Hats for Dunces: www.hats-for-dunces.com ... or else go stand in the corner and think about it all for a while! ...
But joking aside, it's really not complicated, and far easier to learn than spending hours of your precious time in shops or supermarkets trying to guess if what you are buying is ethically suitable for you or your family. Let's face it, the NOVA Key system presents a really simple, quick identification method, even for the "can't-be-bothereds", who may be bothered if a familiar, clear labelling key is staring straight back at them from the product packaging. With very little effort required from manufacturers and consumers alike, the NOVA Key clears up any confusion about ingredients and the same time encourages healthier lifestyle options - while
inspiring industries to explore more environmentally friendly ways to manufacture consumable items. Either way, the choice is yours - and at least with the NOVA Key, you will easily be able to identify your preferences - anyway you like ... all through the simple indication of a cross ... or not.
Until then, "To V or not to V ... that is the confusion!"

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What You Can Do In Your Own Time To Help

UNITED KINGDOM and IRELAND site visitors

Due to the current state of labelling practices in the UK, it's worth keeping a vigilant eye open for products with "V" or "O" style labels on them. And if you have doubts about a product's authenticity as being totally meat free or organic etc, then contact the stores management or the producers themselves. Tell us about it as we will keep this site updated with your reports.
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Investigation and Case Studies
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Nova Key Examples on Products

Europe Mainland, USA, Canada, Australia, Asia and New Zealand site visitors

Your observations and information about the labelling situation in your country is vital to our NOVA Key campaign. Tell us your thoughts and findings as we will keep this site updated with your reports.
Vote and add your comments
Investigation and Case Studies
Q and A's
Nova Key Examples on Products

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