At the end of January 2013 we finally saw the Government publish a response on front of pack nutrition labelling, following a consultation between health ministers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The response has been met with joy by campaigners, who have been pushing for a consistent food labelling system for over a decade.
The argument is that clearer labelling that is positioned on the front of food will allow consumers to make informed decisions over the goods they eat. It is hoped that the move will help tackle the ever-growing obesity figures across the UK.
At the moment, there are various labelling systems in place, with some manufacturers including guideline daily amounts (GDA), which provide a percentage of the recommended daily intake for calories, fats, sugar, and salt. Alternatively, the ‘traffic light’ system uses green, yellow or red indicators to show as to whether the product has low, medium or high content of the above ingredients and nutrients.
However, there are concerns that multiple systems cause confusion amongst shoppers, as discussed by Public Health Minister Anna Soubry:
“The UK already has the largest number of products with front-of-pack labels in Europe, but research has shown that consumers get confused by the wide variety of labels used. By having a consistent system we will all be able to see, at a glance, what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.”
Past attempts to put a single system in place have stalled due to the fact it would have to be agreed at European level; with certain countries proving problematic. This has led the UK Government to push ahead with a voluntary system and, following discussions, they are confident that most of the big manufacturers and retailers will comply.
So, if these new food labels are introduced in the summer of 2013 as proposed, what can we expect them to look like? Well, the overriding message from the Government’s published response is that a combination of the systems already in place should be used:
- GDA percentages should still be clearly displayed, giving information per serving rather than the whole packet, avoiding the need to make calculations
- The ‘traffic light’ system should still be used as it has proven popular with shoppers, who are able to make a decision on a product ‘at a glance’
- The words high, medium, or low should be displayed next the content information of calories, fat, sugar, and salt
The Food Standards Agency (FDA), who recommended this scheme years ago, have created the graphic below to give us an idea of what the new front of pack food labelling system may look like.
There is no denying that the labels are clear and concise and should help shoppers make better decisions when it comes to buying healthier food. It will be interesting to see what kind of an impact this change has on UK obesity figures in the coming years, as we all hopefully become more aware of the nutritional value of the foods we are consuming.
If you are a food manufacturer or retailer looking to incorporate this new front of pack labelling system into your packaging then please call us on 01543 431 070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we can help you out.
Image credit: Food Standards Agency