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The effects of label design characteristics on perceptions of genetically modified food

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Objective. To explore the effects on perceptions of labelling food for genetically modified content. Background: there is increasing public pressure for the compulsory labelling of genetically modified food content on all food products, and yet little is known about how the design and content of such food labels will influence product perceptions. The current research draws upon warning label research – a field in which the effect of label design manipulations on perceptions of, and responses to, potential or perceived risks is well documented. Method. Two experiments are reported that investigate how label design features influence the perception of genetically modified foods. The effects of label colour (red, blue and green), wording style (definitive vs. probabilistic and explicit vs. non-explicit) and information source (government agency, consumer group and manufacturer) on hazard perceptions and purchase intentions were measured. Results. Hazard perceptions and purchase intentions were both influenced by label design characteristics in predictable ways. Any reference to genetic modification, even if the label is stating that the product is free of genetically modified ingredients, increased hazard perception, and decreased purchase intentions, relative to a no-label condition. Conclusion. Label design effects generalise from warning label research to influence the perception of genetically modified foods in predictable ways. Application. The design of genetically modified food labels.

Keywords: food labelling; genetically modified food; hazard perception; purchase intention

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Thinking and Language, School of Psychology,University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK 2: Peninsular Medical School,University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK 3: Institute of Work, Health & Organisations,University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

Publication date: 2012-05-01

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