Fairtrade food is marked with the FAIRTRADE mark. This means that it has been approved by the Fairtrade Foundation, an independent body, and found to have met international standards of fairtrade. The producers of that banana or chocolate bar are guaranteed a better deal under the Fairtrade mark than they would have got on the open market, which is biased towards the powerful massive international companies.
Over 5 million famers in 49 developing countries benefit from the Fairtrade system. They are guaranteed a stable price which allows them to accumalate capital to invest in their business, and afford to send their children to school. Otherwise they would be subject to the vagaries of the market, on which the price they get could drop below the price of production (as coffee has for the last six years).
The price the farmers receive includes a premium which is earmarked for them to invest in social and/or environmental projects in their area, and allows them to make long-term improvements such as boring holes for clean water supplies or building healthcare centres.
The fairtrade premium also means that the farmers can invest in agricultural methods that are better for the environment and/or convert to organic.
There are hundreds of products that bear the FAIRTRADE mark - look for them on your next shop.
For more information go to the fairtrade website.