Green food claims: an international survey of self-declared green claims on selected food products
The report is based on a survey of a 'typical food basket' across eight different countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Romania, Slovenia and the United States. Examining the labels against national and international regulations, the report concludes that internationally agreed standards have not achieved their goal of protecting consumers from misleading green claims. In addition, the report finds that a large number of claims and logos are meaningless, vague, non-transparent, and lacked standards and/or third party verification. In some cases, the labels complicate choice or do not help consumers make sustainable choices which in turn inhibits changes to market behaviour.
The report argues that political will and guidance are crucial if labels are to enable consumers to purchase ethically. Specific recommendations include:
- labels and claims on food should be clear and unambiguous, and there should be enforcement action to ensure compliance
- misleading and unsubstantiated images should not be used to convey inappropriate messages, particularly about production methods. Better enforcement of current food labelling regulations is required to ensure compliance with national and international standards and regulations
- whether private or public, all food standards for food labels and claims should be developed with stakeholder involvement and respond to public interest. In addition, standards should be publicly available, open and accessible so that consumers can be sure of their validity
- where explicit claims and statements are communicated to consumers, these should be validated by third party verification to ensure validity and consumer confidence
- appropriate legislation and standards should prohibit brand names from being derived from emotive words and images such as 'natural' or 'pure'
- further research should be conducted on the extent of language and translation problems of food claims, to agree on definitions of terms, and to ensure that consumers are not being misled
[adapted from author]
Note: The full text of this document is no longer available from consumers international but can be accessed through the resourcesaver.org website.