Fewer Canadians believe claims made on food packaging actually improve their health: poll

This file photo shows labeling stating no genetically engineered ingredients on a box of Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal.
This file photo shows labeling stating no genetically engineered ingredients on a box of Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

Low fat, whole grain, probiotics, organic, omega 3s – take a trip to any grocery store and the list of health claims being made on our food packaging continues to grow.

While many Canadians do care about some of the health claims made, that number is dropping, according to an exclusive Global News Ipsos poll.

The vast majority of Canadians want to know what’s in their food and where it comes from, but the poll showed that what respondents cared about the most was that the food was locally-grown, priced well and fresh.

READ MORE: What’s your favourite farmers’ market? Add it to our map

Less important are health considerations like added probiotics or omega-3 fatty acids. Across the board, fewer Canadians are likely to believe these claims actually improve their health.

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“There seems to be a wide variety of health claims being made by products, and yet Canadians don’t appear to be getting any healthier,” said Sean Simpson, vice president at Ipsos Public Affairs.

Sixty-five per cent of those polled said they believe omega 3-fatty acids in their food improve their health – down from 79 per cent four years ago.

Over half (56 per cent) said they believe probiotics improve their health, dropping from 72 per cent in 2011. Meanwhile only 17 per cent said they actually buy products with added probiotics.

Forty-six per cent believe food labelled “organic” is healthier for them. But only 18 per cent said they usually or always buy organic foods.

And while 48 per cent believe the health claims made on food labels (down from 53 per cent in 2011), only 42 per cent of Canadians are willing to pay more for products that make health claims.

Simpson said the poll also shows that a large number of Canadians are unsure of the meaning of some of the health claims being made.

Consumers understand what ‘locally-grown’ means (92 per cent), but have much less understanding of terms like ‘non-GMO.’

READ MORE: What does that grocery label mean?

“Many Canadians don’t fully comprehend what many of the claims mean,” said Simpson. “They may be used in marketing materials but a good chunk of Canadians don’t understand what the supposed benefit is.”

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A product labeled with Non Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is sold at the Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins store in Los Feliz district of Los Angeles Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.
A product labeled with Non Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) in a 2012 file photo. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.”

The poll was conducted between May 22 and 27, 2015, using a sample of 1,005 Canadians. It is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had all Canadian adults been polled.

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