Clean label – what clean labels means for consumers and industry.

Consumer interest in clean labels is increasing driven by general distrust of processed food and synthetic products, desire for transparency and increasing interest in healthfulness and non-GMO. Interest in ‘natural’ labelling is declining due to legal and regulatory complexities of ‘all natural’ label claims and overuse by the industry.

Shifting the responsibilities of regulation

Although the environmental legislation of the early 1970s sent a powerful message of increasing environmental awareness, the efforts of legislators failed to result in clear, systemic federal regulations. Furthermore regulatory agencies in the UK and elsewhere have failed to fully implement clear precautionary principles. Consequently, a complex web of third-party certification has emerged, creating a kind of independent regulation and non-governmental policy structure. While the environmental and CSR labelling and certification regimes have begun to blend, third-party certification programs have yet to add health claims to the mix to any great degree. Instead, it is now commonplace to see unverified health claims, labels, and seals about the “healthiness” of a variety of products and services. This is likely to change as concerns about environmental health continue to move into the domain of personal health values. Soon, consumers will demand third-party certification of health claims as well.

Toxic Body Burdens Bring New Scrutiny to Everyday Items

The risks associated with everyday products are becoming a common concern, undermining our sense of trust in everything from laundry detergent to cosmetics to food. Books and studies have heightened this sense of risk, making it specific and personal. These exposés both drive demand for more powerful regulatory frameworks and fuel the development of cleaner, greener products and reformulations. Emotionally charged forums of national and international media are shedding light on how sources of contamination from the water surrounding growing fields to ingredient middlemen—represent risks in the product system that affect individuals bodies. These episodes are frequent enough for consumers to now shoulder a burden of empowerment long felt by consumers in China and elsewhere to be on the lookout for contaminated and risky products that end up close to or inside our bodies. This is shifting however back into broader movements of policy and collective action. We need a shift of the tide away from the sheer production drive of our product system and toward ecological resilience and human health.

Public awareness of science and health research is heightening.

As the challenges of chronic disease and our current unstable and rapidly changing health care system, more people are turning to the internet to educate themselves on all factors that lead to good health. Public debates around poor health have mainstreamed the conversation about causes encompassing environments, behaviour, and biological disposition. As a result we are seeing a growing interest in and demand for information and clearer explanations for illness, cause and disease. When considering the cause of any ailment, the paradigm of ecological causality broadens the scope of inquiry and now expanding awareness of how health is related to the environment is revealing more complex and ecological conceptions of how diseases are caused and how they can be treated. Increasingly, more people will view health and risks to well-being in the context of the environment itself.