"Supermarkets are pandering to misplaced consumer fears about the health risks of of widely used food ingredients in a cynical marketing move, a group representing young scientists has warned."
The Voice of Young Science (VoYS) has written a letter to the leading supermarkets raising concerns about their use of misleading and scaremongering claims in their advertising which only serve to reinforce consumers' misconceptions about food and risk.
We do have a (largely false) perception that 'additives' to foods are inherently bad, so what the supermarkets are doing is to advertise their products as being "free from...X" or "contains no added X" to give the impression that this is a consumer benefit. The drawback is that it implies that X (whatever it may be: MSG, colourings, etc.) is actually harmful in some way. The scientific evidence, however, does not support this.
The fact that harm is implied rather than being explicitly stated makes this type of claim insidious in nature - we're absorbing false information but it's completely transparent to us.
Of course, the real beneficiaries of this misinformation are the supermarkets themselves. If they can create a brand image whereby people believe that their products are healthier than alternatives then it can only boost sales.
VoYS member Simon Rees points out that:
“Lidl makes its products with ‘no added MSG’ because that’s what it thinks customers want. No science. No evidence. Simple marketing.”
A pertinent question would now be: why do their customers want this?
An obvious answer is that they want it because they've been influenced by the supermarkets' advertising campaigns!