We all know food labels contain important information, but they can also be overwhelming and confusing. The authors of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) have provided some clarity regarding food labels. Their recent paper examines how consumers react to labels, identifies the legal framework for labeling and provides policy recommendations based on the pros and cons of labels.
CAST is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies, and nonprofit organizations charged with interpreting science-based information and communicating it to the public. Their paper states that labels allow consumers to feel connected and better able to make informed decisions. The flip side is when consumers interpret those labels with opinions rather than credible science. The cost is higher food prices and the stunting of technological advances in agriculture.
The experts explain that labels are still a desirable addition to food products, but the industry and policy makers need to remember a few key points:
- Governments should not impose bans on process labels.
- Mandatory labeling should occur only when science-based facts prove that the product is harmful.
- Voluntary process labels should be encouraged if they are true and scientifically verifiable.
- Next-generation process labels should avoid the “all or nothing syndrome” while incorporating new technology and imaginative ways to clearly inform consumers.
It’s time to turn “you are what you think you eat” into “you are what you know you eat.” Future labels should be clear, science based, and consumer friendly.