Food label QR codes irk consumer advocates

Quick response codes may soon be a prime way to identify which products contain GMO ingredients.

A huge debate is currently raging over the use of food label QR codes to reveal the presence of GMO ingredients. Supporters think this is a quick and easy way to provide consumers with this information. Those opposed feel that it is not enough to make the presence of GMO ingredients known.

A new law has been signed by President Barack Obama that requires GMO foods to be clearly labeled.

This law tells food manufacturers that they must show when genetically modified ingredients are used in their products. It must be presented in plain writing, include an icon created by regulators, or offer information via food label QR codes. That said, healthful food advocates have said that the quick response codes place a barrier between the consumer and the labeling information they need.

Food label QR codes would require the consumer to use a smartphone or tablet to scan with a dedicated app.

Food label QR codes - Organic FoodsThe advocates would like GMO ingredients to be labeled more explicitly than that. If a QR code scan is required in order to obtain the information, not all consumers will be able to easily access it.

According to the Just Label It advocacy group chairperson, Gary Hirshberg, “It is my hope that food corporations reject high-tech gimmicks like QR codes.” Similarly, the Organic Consumers Association activist group has launched a new online petition. The petition against the labeling law that allows GMO disclosures through barcodes currently has over 500,000 signatures. That total was achieved in its first week, and the number continues to grow.

At the same time, food manufacturers insist that using food label QR codes is not for deception. There is no subterfuge in their goals, they say. Food Marketing Institute senior vice president of industry relations, Mark Baum, said “I think it’s a red herring,” of the law’s critics. That institute conducted a study which revealed that only one in five American consumers will scan quick response codes to learn about food products. That said, Baum feels that the number of scanning consumers will rise as more detailed information becomes available through this method.

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