Less is more: information overload in the labelling of fish and aquaculture products

fish labels

Open Evidence researchers co-authored a new article on the academic journal Food Policy, publishing the results of a behavioural study carried out for the European Commission. We investigated whether consumers understand, trust, and process origin-related information in fish labels.

Food labels have been used extensively for informing consumers to make more rational and safer decisions. However, this carries the risk of confusing consumers with multiple claims which may distract from key information such as the country of origin of the product. To inform the European legislation, we have tested labels on fish and aquaculture products in three separate behavioural experiments, across several European Member States.

The main results showed that mandatory information is better recalled than voluntary information. In addition, consumers perceive, and process differently labels for farmed and caught fish, relying more on quality claims for the former. Nonetheless, in both cases, while they value visual information, they are likely to be confused by voluntary claims including flags. Finally, when additional claims are added step by step, they lead to a decrease in accuracy of recall and comprehension.

In sum, less is better, because too much information on food labels lead to cognitive overload and consumer confusion.

Read the full article here.