Shoppers may access information by scanning a product’s Q.R. (quick-response) code using the SmartLabel app or camera feature on a smartphone, going to www.smartlabel.org. SmartLabel gives descriptions on allergens, usage instructions, how the item was produced, how animals were treated during the development process, or the product’s environmental impact.
“SmartLabel participation has increased significantly from 4,000 products in early 2017 to nearly 28,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products today,” said Jim Flannery, senior executive vice-president at the G.M.A. “More products are using SmartLabel every week, and that’s why manufacturers and retailers are kicking off a campaign to make sure consumers know about SmartLabel and how it helps them get the additional information they want about the products they use and consume.”
The G.M.A. commissioned Atomik Research, London, to run an online survey May 3-4 of 1,002 U.S. adults who do grocery shopping for their homes. The survey had a margin of error of +/-2 percentage points with a confidence interval of 95%. The survey found three in five shoppers said they were using their smartphones for grocery shopping more in the past two years; 56% said they would use an app to learn more about the ingredients in an item they were considering buying; almost two-thirds showed an interest in learning about ethical or sustainable sourcing; and 59% said it was important to have information on allergens such as whether the equipment used to manufacture a food product also may process allergens.
SmartLabel and Q.R. codes possibly could be used to disclose whether an item contains bioengineered/G.M.O. ingredients. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its proposed rule issued May 3 for the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard lists Q.R. codes as one way to disclose whether a product includes bioengineered/G.M.O. ingredients. The Center for Food Safety, Washington, opposes the use of Q.R. codes, saying the image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, which means the labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to the technology. The Center for Food Safety said the U.S.D.A. should mandate on-package text or symbol labeling.