New search

Kaylee M. Wilburn
Undergraduate Student

Heidelberg University
Aisles of Confusion: Making Sense of Modern Food Labels

In addition to traditional nutrition facts and ingredients, current food packaging frequently includes a wide variety of additional labels including: organic, antibiotic free, cage free/free range, gluten free, no added hormones, no MSG, non-GMO, and probiotic. Grocery shoppers are faced with many difficult decisions, especially weighing price against perceived health benefits. Looking at labels can influence consumers, but what the labels actually mean, who regulates them, and the effects of marketing strategies are not always fully understood, leading to misconceptions and misguided fears about food. This case study helps students understand the meaning of many modern food labels through in-class activities, group research, and student presentations in which small groups research one food label in depth and present their results to the class. The case concludes with a whole-class discussion on the variety of perspectives involved in food labeling, the causes and effects of high prices for labeled products, the ethics of current labelling practices, and other general themes. There is no answer key for this case, however a rubric, assignment guidelines, and a sample student report and infographic are included in the teaching notes.