Organic Labeling: Problems and Solutions

Organic Labeling: Problems and Solutions

  • Case
  • Teaching Notes

A substantive segment of the consumer base is becoming more health conscious. Consumers interested in ensuring optimal health often seek to inform themselves of what they are putting into their bodies by attentively reading the contents of the packaging. “Organic” is a term that carries with it a cost premium but also the promise of reduced exposure to unnecessary, synthetic chemical additives while also contributing to a sustainable ecosystem. But what determines whether a given food item is fit for the label or not?

The present case study is organized around two primary concerns. The first concern is to explain three weaknesses in the labeling process. Despite admirable ambitions by the government to ensure the highest possible food quality, the politics of the process of labeling result in barriers to entry for potential food producers. These barriers actually create incentives for deceptive and misleading labeling that lead to exploitation of soft spots in the oversight. The second concern addresses potential remedies to the problem. It asks the reader to consider the strengths and limitations of three potential solutions: enhancing governmental resources to meet the licensing demands, allowing private corporations or watchdog groups to label products, or seeking civil damages through the courts.

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