Nutrition News: Nutrition Labels, GMO-Free Products and Organic Recalls
If a product has a front-of-pack nutrition label, people are significantly more likely to buy it, regardless of whether the label brings good news or bad about the nutritional value of the product, a study has found. According to researchers at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, who published their findings in Public Health Nutrition, it doesn’t matter the size or format of the label, or even the info contained in the front-of-pack label; the mere presence of a front-of-pack label on a product causes an increase in consumers’ intention to buy the product. The authors say the results suggest a “complete functional failure” of current nutrition labels, calling for further research before countries make them compulsory, as is being considered in the United States and the United Kingdom, among others.
If you’ve noticed more products in your cart carrying labels stating they're free of genetically modified organisms, it’s not your imagination — but it may not indicate that anything about those products has changed either. Increasingly, The Wall Street Journal reports, even though the governmental and scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe, consumer concern has climbed. As a result, more sellers have begun paying to verify and label products “GMO free,” even though their products may not be among the handful of crops approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for genetic modification — or even have any genes. Still, labeling your product GMO free, if it happens to not contain any GMO ingredients, makes good business sense, some companies believe, as it may prompt consumers to choose your product over the competition.
Those who eat organic, take note: A new report suggests that recalls of organic food products have taken a big leap this year. According to Stericycle, a firm that helps companies manage recalls, organic food product recalls have jumped to 7 percent of all recalled food units so far this year, up from 2 percent last year and only 1 percent in 2012 and 2013. That may, in part, be due to increased demand for organic products and the fact that they now account for a higher percentage of all food retail sales. “What’s striking is that since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A, rather than a problem with a label,” Stericycle vice president Kevin Pollack told The New York Times. “This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it,” he said. Now we are.
Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish .