Researchers urge retailers not to mislead on health risks
Published:  01 May, 2013

Supermarkets have been called on to stop “misleading” customers about health risks.

Early career researchers from the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) have sent an open letter to 10 supermarket CEOs and accused them of playing on “unfounded fears about health effects from GM, MSG, parabens and aspartame”.

According to the VoYS, the health effects are not supported by scientific evidence and the researchers said: “Excluding these substances does not provide a health benefit.” The researchers asked supermarkets to give reasons for advertising as “free from” something. “Without exception, those supermarkets which responded did not provide evidence of health effects. Instead they blamed customer concerns,” researchers said.

Researchers asked how consumers were supposed to work out which health concerns were “well-founded” and which were not, if supermarkets were using health fears as sales tools.

They added: “Your company and other supermarkets are appealing to the fears and rumours that have circulated about these substances, by advertising products as free from them.”

Richard Dodd from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) told MeatInfo.co.uk that the point is that retailers use those sorts of expression on their labelling in response to feedback from customers.

He said: “It is wrong to say that these expressions are making any implications about safety or are misleading customers about the nature of the substances that are being left out.”