8 ways consumers are misled by product labeling

Picture of a water label.

Few manufacturers are interested in the well-being of their consuming public.

The great majority are ever alert to circumvent the law, to deceive the customer by throwing sand in his eyes, as it were.

Among the more common ways in which they do this are the following:

First, there is the use of very fine print.

Unless one has good eyesight, which 60 percent of the public does not have, one will have difficulty reading many of the lists of contents on labels.

Of course, where a popular chocolate product has thirty-one ingredients, fourteen of which are chemicals with no food value, it is easy to understand why they want to put the list in small type!

Second, there is the trick of having the type color and the background so much alike that it is very difficult to read except when held to the light in a certain way.

Light-colored or metallic inks are frequently used for this purpose.

Third is the crude device of a poor job of printing - either too much ink so that it smears, or so little that it is hardly legible.

This also discourages customers from trying to read the list of contents.

Fourth is the putting of the list in a corner on the side of the package or on the back.

When there is a long list it may begin on one side and continue on another, few customers turn the carton to finish reading the list.

Fifth is to hide behind nice-sounding words that obscure the real meaning.

For instance, would you think that “oxygen interceptor added to improve stability” meant the adding of chemicals simply to prevent the fat in the product from becoming oxidized?

The same is the purpose of an “antioxidant.” 

Sixth, there is the custom of hiding behind technical names that mean nothing to the consumer.

Consider such names as: Butylated Hydroxyanisole, Butylated Hydroxytoluene, Propyl Gallate, Tocopherols, Isopropyl Citrate, Ethylene Diamine, and so forth.

At present there is agitation to eliminate all these and simply to state: “Fat preservative added,” “Fat antioxidant present to retard rancidity,” and so forth.

But if any of these chemicals should be found harmful, as food additives have been found time and again users should know this.

Seventh, there is out-and-out misrepresentation.

For example, a famous name appears prominently on an appliance, but closer examination reveals that only a very small part of it, such as the thermostat, is made by this maker.

Or watches are listed as having more jewels than they actually have; or they may have such a number of jewels, but merely as ornaments, not serving the purpose of jewels in watches, that of bearings.

Eighth, finally, there is the form of misrepresentation that gives a list of ingredients but does not tell how much of each is in it.

People pay more for a vegetable juice that has eight ingredients, but how much is there of each?

So let consumers be especially careful in reading the labels, make comparisons and benefit from the facts they do contain. 

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