Last week, my course-mates and I ran a facilitated discussion on food labeling, more precisely, about the traffic lights system and how does the population perceive it.
In case you did not come across this topic before, the food labeling system was developed by the Food Labeling Agency and its aim is to show the consumers the calories, fat, saturates, sugar and salt included in the product, by emphasizing the foods’ nutritional properties through the following colors: red, amber and green.
Our case study focused on Tesco’s food labeling deal with the government. The latter one is actively seeking for ways to tackle obesity, a disease affecting more and more people each day, thus considers food labeling a proper way of warning the population of the unhealthy or healthy content of different products.
After researching, I found that around 60% of adults and an estimated 30% of children suffer from obesity, in the UK. (BBC, 2012) [online] These people might consider the governments’ decision of implementing the food labeling system very helpful. On the other hand, Nestle, important player in the Nutrition and Wellness consumer goods industry, sustains that people will not be able to choose for themselves, therefore their individual responsibility could be strongly undermined.
My peers argued that they would actually like to be informed over the nutritional facts of the food they are buying, but they also stated that they would still purchase the cheapest products. As expressed by them, it is their choice to buy or not to buy. Theirs and no one else’s.
I wonder whether the government’s, Tesco’s and Nestle’s apparent moral reasons for implementing or not the food labeling system are actually sustained by their ethical code of conduct or does it all come down to economical reasons? Are the consumers’ rights used as a means of making more money or not? Which one should we listen to? Should the companies take into account the law for fear of not getting sued over hiding the population that the food they eat comes from a crop where pesticides were used or should companies think about the good of the humanity and state the content on the label as purely informative? The second option would also imply that if food companies do inform people over the food they buy, this would also mean that they would be able to create an ethical renown for themselves. In this case, one could question whether the companies are doing all that for building a reputation for themselves, which would also imply economic reasons.
What do you think?