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Phone app checks food sustainability and health label claims

By Mark Astley , 01-Dec-2011

A mobile phone app which informs the consumer which product labels are truly meaningful and which aren’t has been developed.

The Eco-Label app, which was developed by US company Consumer Reports, will provide consumers with information on products with apparent sustainablility and health properties.

The app lets you search for information alphabetically and offers a label ‘report card’, which provides guidance on which food labels make true and meaningful claims, and which don’t.

According to a Consumer Reports spokesperson many food packaging labels stating natural and organic properties are often not meaningful or false.

Meaningful or not

“We haven’t been able to quantify exact figures, but we know for a fact that there are a lot of false natural and organic claims being made for instance - particularly by manufacturers,” said Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports director of consumer safety and sustainability.

“It will allow consumers to decipher what these claims actually mean while in the store - what’s meaningful and what’s not.”

According to Consumer Reports, there are two types of claims made on food packaging – general and certified claims.

General claims are those which are made by the manufacturing company, whereas certified claims are those which have been approved by another certification group.

The most precise labels are those that have been developed with public and industry input.

The term ‘organic’ is meaningful on the majority of foods, but some products are not obliged to meet organic food standards in the US.

False claims are also made over the sustainability of products, said the group.

“We tried to educate consumers outside of the store, but that just isn’t enough. We believe that through the development of the app, we will be putting the correct information, literally, in people’s hands.”

Potentially harmful

These false claims could also be potentially harmful to consumers, added Rangan.

“For example, meat labelled ‘natural’ could contain heavy metals or other contaminants if falsely labelled,” she added.

"We've launched the mobile Eco-Label App to help consumers find out whether the claims on their favourite products are truthful."

"As the popularity of green products continues to grow, it's important to know which green marketing claims you can trust and which ones you can't."

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