The Consumer Reports National Research Center released a new national poll that gauges consumer expectations of a wide range of food labels, including "fair trade," "humane," "organic," "raised without antibiotics," and "country of origin."
"Our findings show consumers expect much more from 'natural' food labels and that there is a strong consumer mandate for better food production practices in general and food label standards that meet a higher bar," said Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director, Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. "Due to overwhelming and ongoing consumer confusion around the 'natural' food label, we are launching a new campaign to kill the 'natural' label because our poll underscores that it is misleading, confusing, and deceptive. We truly don't believe there is a way to define it that will meet all of consumers' expectations."
For example, 92 percent of consumers said the term "humanely raised" should mean the farm was inspected to verify the claim; 90 percent said the term should mean the animals had adequate living space; 88 percent said the term should mean animals were humanely slaughtered; and 79 percent said the claim should mean the animals went outdoors.
Ninety-two percent of consumers surveyed said genetically modified food should be labeled as such before it is sold, while 72 percent of consumers said that it is crucial for them to avoid GM ingredients when making food purchases.
Consumer Reports also found that 92 percent of consumers want country of origin labels, while 90 percent of consumers want to know if the meat they buy is from outside the US.
Another key finding: 65 percent of consumers correctly think the "raised without antibiotics" claim means that no antibiotics were used. However 31 percent of consumers think the antibiotic-free label means no other drugs were used in addition to antibiotics, according to Consumer Reports. Additionally, 83 percent of consumers said they expect government to require that meat produced using antibiotics be labeled as "raised with antibiotics."