Education Is Everything

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
July 15, 2008

Maybe it's the latest rash of food recalls. Or maybe it's just that consumers are increasingly conscious of what they eat. Regardless, consumers seek greater transparency in food-product labeling, according to a survey released yesterday.

Administered by Deloitte Consulting LLP, the survey, which polled 1,110 consumers nationwide via the Internet, revealed that 42 percent of respondents want more information so they can make more informed food-purchasing decisions. Half of respondents frequently or always read the ingredient list on an unfamiliar packaged food item, while 52 percent frequently or always view the nutritional information.

Additionally, 84 percent of respondents favor country-of-origin labeling for fresh seafood (it's the law at the majority of retail outlets), while 73 percent don't mind paying more for food labeled by country of origin. Similarly, 51 percent of those surveyed would go as far as scanning a barcode with a cell phone to obtain the country of origin, if the technology were available.

There's little doubt that consumers are increasingly mindful of what they eat. But the degree to which they're aware is a mystery, as an astounding 92 percent of respondents don't recognize at least some of the ingredients on a packaged food item, and 78 percent don't understand at least some of the nutritional information.

The survey results clearly indicate that consumers seek greater transparency in food-product labeling. But they also illustrate the need for retailers to better educate seafood-counter staff, so they can field consumer inquiries about seafood's healthful attributes, country of origin and production method.

Consumers want more information: Education is everything. But if they can't decipher food-product labels, what good are they?

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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