What exactly is premium water, and what’s behind the trend in so-called absence labels?

The food labelling craze coupled with banner headlines about the dangers of glutengenetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hormones are leading to increasingly absurd results.

For example, you can now buy “premium” water that’s not only free of GMOs and gluten but certified kosher and organic. Never mind that not a single drop of water anywhere contains either property or is altered in any way by those designations.

While some labels provide useful information that is not readily detectable by consumers, others contain misleading claims that exploit a knowledge gap with consumers and take advantage of their willingness to pay a premium for so-called process labels. For example, details on a product’s country of origin are helpful; labelling a bottle of water “gluten-free” and “non-GMO” much less so.

Such ‘fake transparency’ does nothing to inform consumers about the nature of their foods

In my experience as a food economist, such “fake transparency” does nothing to inform consumers about the nature of their foods. Moreover, it can actually decrease well-being when accompanied by a higher price tag. A new labelling law set to take effect next year will only make matters worse.


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