Consumers demand 'good and bad food labels'

20th November 2013 - Fine Cut

Demand for clear and concise food labels that contain accurate information on the ingredients found in certain foods is continuing to rise among health-conscious consumers who are hoping to monitor their daily intake.

However, it seems that members of the public are also keen to find out which potentially-harmful contents are not found in items they buy at the supermarket in order to ensure they are as healthy as possible.

Research carried out by scientists at Cornell University found that consumers are craving more information about dangerous ingredients that have been intentionally left out of their foods in order to make a more informed decision about the products they purchase.

The laboratory of 351 shoppers found that consumers are willing to pay a premium when a product label says "free of" something, but only if the package features "negative" information on whatever the product is free of.

For instance, an item that is labelled free of a certain food dye will compel some individuals to buy that product. However, researchers noticed that even more people will buy that product if the same label also includes information about the risks of eating similar substances.

The study's conclusions noted that members of the public are more confident about their decisions and value products more when they are provided with more information about ingredients.

Published in the journal Applied Economic Perspective and Policy earlier this month, the research is likely to be of great interest to chief executives at food-processing companies, along with consumers and government policymakers.

Harry M Kaiser, a Cornell professor who specialises in product labelling, said: "What did surprise us was the effect of supplementary information. Even seemingly negative information was valued over just the label itself."

The study's findings echo those presented in a study earlier this month, which found that clearer labelling on food items could reduce the amount of waste thrown out by households on a weekly basis.

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