A recent study proposes that food products should have warning labels similar to those on tobacco products, in order to help consumers make informed decisions about their health and the environment.
According to a study conducted by professors from Durham University, using warning labels with graphic images, like those seen on cigarette packages for impotence, heart disease, or lung cancer, could decrease the consumption of meat-containing meals by 7-10%.
This alteration could significantly affect the planet’s future. Based on a recent YouGov survey, 72% of people in the UK identify as meat-eaters. However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises the government on achieving net zero objectives, has recommended reducing meat consumption by 20% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 in order to reach these goals.
According to Jack Hughes, a PhD candidate who was in charge of the Durham study, the advice from the CCC and the connection between high meat consumption and various health problems, along with the farming methods currently used, particularly the most commonly used ones, which are strongly linked to the possibility of pandemics, highlight the fact that there are several factors that suggest our current approach to consuming meat may not be the most optimal.
Hughes and his team divided a group of 1,001 adults who consume meat into four categories. Each group was presented with images of hot meals, including meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan options, in a canteen-style setting. These meals ranged from burgers to quiche and were either accompanied by a label warning about health, climate change, or the pandemic, or no label at all.
According to the study, warnings related to the pandemic were the most successful in discouraging people from selecting meat options, resulting in a decrease of 10% in their choices. This was followed by health warnings at 8.8% and climate warnings at 7.4%. However, there was no significant statistical difference between the effectiveness of these warnings, and participants considered the climate warnings to be the most credible.
The discoveries made by researchers have the potential to promote shifts in food preferences that would have a positive impact on the environment. According to Hughes, achieving net zero is crucial for both the country and the world. Similar to how warning labels have been proven to decrease smoking and consumption of sugary drinks and alcohol, implementing warning labels on meat products could aid in reaching this goal if adopted as a national policy.
The research has been published in the journal Appetite.