We’re officially declaring 2013 The Year of the Label. While most eyes will be on states that have taken up the fight to label genetically modified ingredients after the defeat of California’s closely watched Prop 37 in November, we think now’s the perfect time to take a closer look at labels that already exist in the marketplace.
Grocery shelves are filled with noise, and knowing which label you can trust, and which one is actually deceptive can be tricky. That’s why we went to labeling expert, Dr. Urvashi Rangan of Consumers Union, and their labeling companion website: EcoLabels.
“ ‘Natural’ is probably the most egregious term on the market,” Rangan tells us. “And our polling shows that consumers still think it has more meaning than organic.”
And when it comes to meat, Andrew Gunther, Animal Welfare Approved program director, says eggs and poultry meat are frequently the most misleading.
“For the consumer, it’s a difficult time,” he tells us. “One hint? People who are proud of what they do use a photograph, not a drawing. If that box of eggs has a bucolic pastoral cartoon on the box, question that. If it’s not accompanied by a credible certified claim, then you should probably think very hard about buying it.”
Rangan says bad labels are usually not a mistake. “They exploit the use of labeling to sell a product, and that doesn’t serve the consumer or the marketplace. We think labels should be meaningful. They should be verified. They should be consistent in meaning. They should be transparent, and they should be independent to the degree they can be,” she says.
We took a closer look at some frequently seen label to help decipher which have meaning, and which ones are, in fact, meaningless.
Photo: David Stewart/Getty Images