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October 30, 2013 by MAE CHAN
70 Percent of Consumers Strongly Influenced By 'Free From' Labelling

It's the primary reason that the food and supplement industries fight so hard to prevent labelling of genetically modified foods (GMOs). Consumers are strongly influence by what's on the label. Researchers suggest that short-comings in current labelling practices for nutritional supplements offer industry an opportunity to improve label and non-label information and communication around their products. There is a massive marketing opportunity that exists for manufacturers of natural health foods and supplements to implement consumer-friendly labelling strategies which facilitate health conscious decisions in their purchases.

Writing in Nutrition Journal, the new study assessed the impact of labelling and other sources of information on consumer purchasing decisions - finding that close to 70% of the respondents who purchased supplements were strongly influenced by label information that stipulated that the nutritional supplement product is free of banned substances.

Labeling GMO foods and supplements is one of the first important steps we need to take to protect our right to know what we are buying and consuming to move towards a healthier, more sustainable food and supplement system. Big biotech does not want to give people the liberty of this privilege because as noted in this study, the majority of people are strongly influenced by banned substances.

Both the food and natural health industries are also well aware that if GMO labelling initatives follow through, sales will drop instantly for all companies with GMO on the label as people stop buying those foods (we vote with our dollars) and this could potentially disrupt the entire biotech industry.

Led by Gary Gabriels from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, the team also reported that just over 50% of consumers responding to their survey attached importance to the quality of the nutritional supplement information on the label, while around 40% of respondents were strongly influenced by the ingredients listed on labels.

Brand name (36%), disclaimers and warnings (29%), recommended dosage and directions for use (21%), and claims (8%) accounted for the other reasons influencing the purchase, said the team.

"These findings are important as they show the information that is pertinent to people who purchase nutritional supplements, and who base their purchasing decision(s) on container label information," said the authors. "The absence of specific information with reference to "free of banned substances" is an important determinant in the purchase of nutritional supplement products."

Gabriels and his colleagues added that their findings identify short-comings in current labelling information practices, but can provide opportunities to improve label and non-label information and communication, whilst also presenting the case for quality assurance laboratory screening testing of declared and undeclared contaminants and/or adulterants, that could have negative consequences to the consumer.

The study is a clear indicator, supporting the contention by many labelling activists, that 'free from' labels have a direct impact on consumer decisions and may enforce action from both health conscious consumers and the supplement industry itself. If the natural health industry steps up the plate and starts labelling all foods and supplements as GMO-free, it will place more pressure on conventional manufacturers to follow suit. The support by consumers is evident and such an initiative could set new industry standards or at least encourage them.

Nutrition Journal

Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.

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