Watch Urvashi Rangan from the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group for Consumer Reports make a powerful argument for the need for the three Ts in food labeling: Truth, Trust and Transparency. Here are her main points if you don’t have the time to listen to her eloquent presentation:
- Many labels, such as “natural” or “fresh”, have little to no regulation behind it and manufacturers can use them as much as they want, which might potentially mislead consumers (e.g. according to current US legislation, a frozen chicken might legally bear the label “fresh”…)
- Others such as “free-range” set very low standards, and might – in combination with smart advertisement – again convince consumers that they are buying a completely different product than is the case
- Many additives, processing methods or technologies (the most discussed being the “genetically engineered” techniques) don’t need to be labeled at all, though consumers might want to make an informed purchasing decision on them
- Finally, imprecise and potentially misleading labeling destroys consumers’ trust in labels in general, including the ones that have credible standards and regulations behind them (such as organic or fair trade, though they too are still works in progress.)
Bonus: Consumer Reports does a lot of interesting work related to consumer surveys, market availability of products, etc., and you can find some of their resources online, for example a report on antibiotic-free meat, food-labeling polls, etc. Unfortunately, their main website requires a subscription to view most reports, though.
P.S.: I was thinking of starting a “Labels Unveiled” series that could highlight some of the most common European and US labels and what they actually stand for – I’d love to know whether that would interest any of you!