A study suggests that placing cigarette-like health warnings on food packaging could decrease the consumption of meat.
A recent study proposes that labeling food with warnings similar to those found on tobacco products could assist individuals in making more informed decisions regarding not only their personal health, but also the health of the environment.
A study conducted by scholars from Durham University revealed that displaying warning labels with graphic images, such as those seen on cigarette packets warning of impotence, heart disease, or lung cancer, could potentially decrease the number of meat-based meal choices by 7-10%.
This alteration could greatly affect the fate of the Earth. A YouGov survey found that 72% of people in the UK consider themselves to be meat-eaters. However, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an advisory group for the government’s net zero objectives, has stated that the UK must decrease its meat consumption by 20% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 to achieve these goals.
According to Jack Hughes, a PhD candidate and leader of the Durham study, the combination of the CCC’s advice and the negative impact of high meat consumption on health, along with the current methods of farming that are associated with potential pandemic outbreaks, make it evident that our current meat-eating habits may not be ideal.
Hughes and his team divided a sample of 1,001 adults who consume meat into four groups. Each group was presented with images of hot meals, including meat, fish, vegetarian, and vegan options, in a cafeteria-style setting. The meals ranged from burgers to quiche and were accompanied by either a label warning about health, climate, or pandemic concerns, or no label at all.
The study found that pandemic warnings were the most successful in discouraging people from choosing meat options, resulting in a 10% decrease. Health warnings followed at 8.8%, with climate warnings at 7.4%. However, researchers noted that the variations were not statistically significant and that participants perceived climate warnings to be the most believable.
The researchers suggest that their discoveries may promote changes in food preferences that could 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 effective in reducing smoking and consumption of sugary drinks and alcohol, using warning labels on meat products could contribute to this goal if implemented as a national policy.
The research has been published in the journal Appetite.