By Dan Shapley
TransFair USA, which certifies Fair Trade products like rainforest coffee, is at the center of an ongoing debate about how good a company has to be to earn a Fair Trade label. The labeling system is intended to tell consumers that the products they choose originate on farms where people are paid a living wage, and where, often, the products are raised in a sustainable manner. Until recently, the labels went exclusively to small-scale growers. But in a move that echoes the changes in the certified-organic industry, the biggest of the big companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's are getting products certified. To some, that indicates a bankruptcy in the labeling process, as some of the big companies have suspect practices in other spheres of their business. Others see the switch as a promising sign, as formerly niche ethical considerations go mainstream, according to a May 20, 2007, story in the Inside Bay Area.