Label Battles at the Center of Healthy Food Trend
Chris Nace, Esq.
It’s no secret that eating healthy has become more popular. People are all about juicing and healthier options, fast food chains boast that their food is “real” (because it really wasn’t before).
A negative issue with this positive trend however, is labeling. The purpose of food labels is to provide dietary guidance and enable consumers to make an informed decision about their food. With the major increase in label use in recent years, consumers are certainly informed, but not always fairly. Instead, companies are using labels as advertising. Buzzwords like “carb-conscious” are employed to get a product into your grocery cart–and don’t always offer what they promise. In fact, instead of helping you stay healthy, buzzwords often help food manufacturers get around labeling regulations and increase
their profit. Today, $377 billion worth of food is labeled with the 35 most common claims, including “natural,” and “organic.” (Washington Post).
Earlier this week, we blogged about Minute Maid labels misleading buyers to believe they were drinking pomegranate blueberry juice, when actually they were drinking mostly apple. This month, major supermarket chains changed the labeling on meat products from including USDA “choice” information to simply say “USDA graded.” This move is incredibly misleading, because about 94% of beef in the U.S. is graded–it’s the choice, information about quality, that also matters. By labeling different types of beef with the same labeling, the company may have been attempting to save money by storing all meats together or prevent negative reaction from a general sale of lower quality meat.
Either way, their move caught the USDA and consumers by surprise, and didn’t last long. Within days of first complaints, Ahold, the parent company of the chains, reverted back to labeling for “choice.”
Labels are not just an issue unique to food, they also reak havoc in the pharmaceutical industry. Too often, corporations like to avoid responsibly for inadequate labels by claiming that it is impossible to follow both state and federal law. Thankfully, consumer advocates and trial attorneys are fighting this loophole every day. To stay informed about changes in labeling and label litigation, follow our blog.