Products labelled as 'artisanal' are misleading consumers, says European watchdog

Josh Mines
Consumers shop for fresh fruit at a Buenos Aires s
An EU consumer group said products labelled as 'artisanal' or 'traditional' could be misleading shoppers (Source: Getty)

Consumers are being misled by food labels which describe products as "artisanal", "traditional", or "wholegrain", according to an influential EU consumer group.

A new report by the European Consumer organisation (BEUC) says that these descriptions mislabel foods by implying they are homemade or made from whole grains.

In its report, BEUC said it had three major concerns when it came to the mislabelling of food. One was the "attractive descriptions" used by companies to sell foods by calling them "traditional" or "artisan", which it says: "convey an impression of quality that bear little or no relation to the production process of the food/drink".

It also raised issues with marketing that used pictures of fruit on products with almost no actual fruit in them, and items described as "whole grain" that had hardly any whole grain content.

Read more: Gin is still in: Artisan gin sales shoot up 50 per cent at Waitrose

BEUC says tighter rules need to be brought in for the labelling of food and drink products, as it called on the EU to clearly define key terms like "artisanal" that were commonly used to market food.

The consumer watchdog also told the EU to set legal minimum levels of whole grain content for foods with "whole grain" labels, and proposed a similar policy for products which made claims about containing fruit.

"Consumers both want and deserve accurate information about the food they buy," the report states. "It is a core principle of European food law.

EU legislation has brought in important rules on food labelling including improved legibility, indication of the substitute ingredient for 'imitation' foods, clear indication of 'formed meat' or 'formed fish', etc. Our member organisations' work, however, has highlighted the high prevalence across Europe of food labelling tricks.

Taking advantage of grey zones in EU food labelling law, these practices give consumers a perception that they are buying a higher quality or healthier product than the reality.

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