Ethical shoppers confused by printed labels

27th September 2010 - Fine Cut

Shoppers who are actively trying to buy sustainable and ethically sourced products are struggling to find what they want because they are overwhelmed by the variety of environmental labels in use.

According to new research conducted by consumer group Which? seven out of 10 consumers said they would pay more attention to the environmental impact of foods if the product labels were clearer and more meaningful.

The printed labels on food aim to inform shoppers about the origin of the product, whether it has been produced organically and its carbon footprint. However, research found that the nine main schemes being used are "poorly understood," with some of the 1,000 participants of the survey admitting they had never noticed the labels they were asked about, even though they admitted to buying products they appear on.

Some labels such as the internationally renowned Fair trade label, were better known than others but there was still some confusion over what it actually meant. Around 82 per cent of those asked were aware of Fair trade, but only 3 per cent knew Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) which supports sustainable faming.

Sue Davies, head of policy at Which? told The Guardian: "The coalition government has committed to introducing 'honesty' in food labelling so that consumers can be confident about where their food comes from and its environmental impact."

"Which? wants to work with the government and the industry to develop a clearer approach to sustainability labelling so that consumers can easily make more informed choices," she added.

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