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Should labels inform or sell?

When shopping for groceries, the first thing I do, or second after checking the price, is read the label. It is where we expect to find complete list of ingredients with percentages and recommended daily allowances. It is a tool, we as consumers, use to decide whether or not to purchase it. Usually after considering things like how much saturated fat or sodium or artificial sweeteners said product may contain. Of course we all know that labels also serve another purpose...to help sell the product. I understand the concept that no matter how good a product may be, to the company behind it, it is only as good as its profits. This is the point where labeling becomes branding and the claims made to promote a product are not always what they seem to be.
 
Labels tend to get our attention when they say things like "Helps Prevent Cancer" or "Lose Weight Fast". The problem is that while there may be a small shred of truth to the statement, it's still a stretch. For example; Kellog's used to air a commercial that claimed Frosted Mini Wheats improved attentiveness in children who ate them for breakfast. As Last Week Tonight's host John Oliver explains, this is only a part of the truth because the comparison was made to a control group who ate nothing at all. This type of misrepresentation only gets compounded when celebrity endorsements are added into the mix. I'm not talking about Matthew McConaughey trying to sell us a Lincoln, that one's just a guy with a lot of money who may or may not actually drive the expensive car he's endorsing. He doesn't claim that buying one will turn you into an academy award winning sellout, ugh, I mean actor...even if that's what you took away from it.
 
The lines get blurred however, and possibly crossed, when a celebrity like Dr. Oz, an actual doctor with a daily television show, magazine and website, promotes a product and claims it to be a "magical" or "miraculous" cure. For some reason, the good doctor has an incredible effect on the general population of the United States and all he has to do is mention a product for it's sales to skyrocket. His influence is called "The Dr. Oz Effect" and he was called to sit before a Senate committee to be questioned about his statements. The difference between Oz's endorsement and McConaughey's is simple; Oz is a doctor  promoting unregulated supplements as "magical" and then not even discussing the side effects. The fact people are willing to take anything that is unregulated and may have unknown side effects is astonishing to me. I mean come on, we've all seen the commercials for new drugs that list the numerous side effects ranging from headaches to anal leakage, in some cases strokes or cancer can occur...and those drugs are regulated.
 
It is no surprise that companies here play fast and loose with the labeling process and misleading health claims considering my country doesn't even require the labeling of GMOs. Fortunately, consumers are more aware now than ever and are not easily deterred when companies dismiss challenges made to their statements. We know better, but it makes me think that maybe any publicity really is good publicity. Last year when Mr. Oliver joked about the health claims made by the makers of Pom Wonderful, the company responded in a way that said here's a case of our product, if you don't like it...you know what to do with it.
 


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