241301 Country of Origin Labeling for Seafood: An exploration of the information environment in Baltimore City grocery stores

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lisa Lagasse, MHS , Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
David Love, PhD, MSPH , Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD
Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD , Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
INTRODUCTION The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, enacted in 2004, requires U.S. grocery retailers to indicate the origin and procurement method (farm-raised or wild-caught) for seafood. Since public health and environmental risks vary across seafood species, sources, and harvesting methods, COOL may promote healthier and more sustainable choices. This study analyzed the presentation of COOL in stores. METHODS Thirteen stores in Baltimore, Maryland were visited bi-monthly, and circulars collected weekly, for three months. Seafood labels photographed in each store - and advertisements were coded to assess the prominence of COOL on fresh, frozen, packaged, and unpackaged seafood. RESULTS Ninety-eight percent of products (n=480) were labeled according to federal regulations. In most stores, COOL was presented on uniform placards, but not prominently labeled. Only two stores placed COOL in a prominent position, using a unique font/color. Packaging on frozen seafood consistently highlighted procurement method for wild-caught seafood; origin information was less often highlighted. Similar variation was noted in seafood advertising. Forty-eight percent of advertisements (n=365) across all stores included either origin or procurement information. Wild-caught seafood was consistently highlighted, whereas origin information, except for domestic products, was less prominent. CONCLUSIONS The information environment influences purchasing behavior. While seafood labels in Baltimore stores suggest that origin and procurement are not priority information, advertising highlights domestic and wild caught products, signaling to customers that these are high-value product qualities. Potentially affecting consumption patterns, it is important that COOL be framed to steer shoppers toward the healthiest, most sustainable seafood.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how information about the country of origin and procurement method for seafood are conveyed to the consumer prior to and at the point of purchase.

Keywords: Food and Nutrition, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present becuase I designed and conducted the research described in this abstract. I have a Masters in Health Science from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.