As a result of highly publicised food scandals (from Turkey Twizzlers to horse meat, to E. coli, campylobacter and salmonella) and growing consumer concern for animal welfare, the food industry has come under pressure to restore our confidence in the products on our supermarket shelves. While staying firmly on its problematic industrial course, it has responded with marketing ploys aiming to silence our doubts and perpetuate our shopping habits. Reassuring labels with a feel-good factor have flourished, seemingly re-establishing a lost connection with authenticity, but actually widening the gap between our largely romanticised vision of the food we buy and the often questionable ways in which it is produced.
Here are eight examples of misleading labels which, by the end of this article, should have lost any power to fool you :
1. "Natural" – The term conjures up reassuring pastoral scenes, but merely refers to processing levels. It describes food containing ingredients derived from nature rather than the work of man, but says nothing about conditions of production. For example, "natural" dairy products should be manufactured solely from milk and be free from other ingredients or additives (such as preservatives or flavourings). In other words, they should be plain. But the milk may still have come from an industrial farm operating "zero-grazing" systems where cows are kept permanently indoors and suffer high levels of lameness and mastitis – not something most consumers would consider "natural".