Are ‘free-from’ (gluten, GMO) food labels informative—or misleading?

| | October 5, 2017
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

What could be conceptually simpler than labeling a food product? You tell the customers what’s in the product, or maybe what’s not in it, or maybe what you did to manufacture it—or what you didn’t. Sugar-free, protein-rich, bird-friendly, shade-grown, non-GMO, made with organically grown crickets, anything you like. Just inform the buyers and let them make rational decisions.

The problem, of course, is that human beings are apparently not designed to make consistently rational decisions. And that’s true even when we’re dealing with apparently objective information like the claims we find on food labels.

If you’re not persuaded, you might want to check out “Labeling Food Processes: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” … just published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. The article provides an up-to-date review of the evidence on how food labels—and especially the “free-from” and production-oriented labels (fair-trade, dolphin-safe, and the like) actually affect consumers.

When you put products on the market labeled “gluten-free,” or label something as free from some substance, it doesn’t prove useful just to people who need to or want to steer clear of the substance—it devalues all the products that don’t declare themselves free of the substance. You create a presumption that the product without is superior to the product with.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: How “free-from” and other food labels actually affect us

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