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Traffic light labels

UK prepares for traffic light labelling scheme

All Britain’s main supermarkets have pledged strong support to the new national front-of-pack labelling scheme which aims to offer consumers clear and consistent nutritional information on the food they buy. Leading food manufacturers are less enthusiastic and are boycotting the voluntary scheme.

The national recommendation, announced late last year, was officially unveiled this week by the DoH, after more than a year’s worth of consultations with the public, health NGOs and the food and drink industry.

The DoH says the system will make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices about the foods they eat, after research (in the European Journal of Public Health) showed they can end up “bewildered” by the different nutrition labels on food.

The new voluntary system combines both traffic light colour-coding and nutritional information to display how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories are in products. This will be presented as “Reference Intakes”, replacing “Guideline Daily Amounts” (GDA).

Businesses signed up to using the label – which include PepsiCo, Mars, McCain Foods and Nestle, as well as all the major supermarkets – account for more than 60%  of the food sold in the UK.

Some companies, however, are concerned adopting the scheme could negatively affect their businesses.

Problems cited include the logistical difficulties and costs involved in pan-European manufacturers producing labelling purely for the UK, issues around certain natural products such as fruit juices and dairy foods being “demonised” with red light sugar or fat status and a general belief current nutritional labelling is already sufficient.

Both Coca-Cola and Cadbury-owner Mondelez will continue with the pan European GDA labelling, introduced to the UK in 2006.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman says: “We fully support providing consumers with factual, clear and transparent nutrition information. The system we use in the UK complies with the preferred standard for consistent voluntary GDA labelling across EU member states, and studies show that consumers widely recognise and understand GDAs throughout Europe.”

A Mondelez International spokesman says “Mondelēz International has been providing UK consumers with clear nutritional information on the front of pack since 2006 – in fact we were a pioneer of the current GDA labelling scheme. We will continue to give consumers the information they need to make informed choices about the food they eat.”

A Dairy Crest spokeswoman says: ”We are concerned that the proposed traffic lights system fails to recognise the many health benefits of milk and dairy products within a varied and balanced diet.”

Melanie Leech, director general at the Food and Drink Federation, says widespread usage of consistent front of pack schemes will empower consumers to make appropriate choices, but each company has challenges to consider before adopting them.

She adds: “Each company has many factors to weigh in order to make the appropriate balance for their business between the global, European and UK contexts and in the cost/benefit equation. In addition, the question whether in certain categories we really do help consumers to make a different choice, or we can drive reformulation by using colour-coding may weigh in the balance.”

Big supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op, will start using them “imminently”, though some may take “a few months to rebrand their packaging”, the Department of Health said.

“People will be able to use the colours to understand the level of nutrients in the food they are eating. The labels are not designed to demonise foods with lots of reds but to have people consider what they are eating and make sure it’s part of a balanced diet.

“Businesses that have signed up to using the new label today already account for more than 60% of the food that is sold in the UK,” a spokesman added.

Andrew Opie, BRC Director of Food and Sustainability, said: “This is great news for consumers. A consistent scheme across all the major supermarkets means wherever we shop we will see the same front of pack labelling. That will help improve understanding of the label and make healthier choices easier.

“UK retailers have led the way on developing clear and consistent front of pack labelling over the last few years and we are delighted to see that such an important project is today getting the green light.”

The public health minister, Anna Soubry, said shoppers were confused by existing food labels: “Research shows that, of all the current schemes, people like this [hybrid] label the most and can use the information to make healthier choices.” More manufacturers should adopt the labels, she said.

The consumer group Which? welcomed a “big step forward” and the British Heart Foundation said the “first-class scheme … will make it easier for shoppers to scan the shelves and make more informed choices about what’s going in their trolley”.

But Diane Abbott, shadow public health minister, and the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC), an alliance of health, education and children’s groups, called on ministers to “name and shame” firms that shunned the scheme.

“It isn’t tenable for any food company, which claims to be socially responsible, to refuse to adopt the scheme,” said Charlie Powell, CFC director.

Source: BRC, The Guardian

Retailers are today pledging strong support to a national front of pack labelling scheme which offers customers clear and consistent nutritional information on the food they buy.

The national recommendation being launched today (Wednesday) by all four UK governments is a uniform system for showing how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar and calories are in food products, building on existing labelling which retailers have developed over the last few years. Members of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have led the way in signing up and worked closely with the Government on
presentational aspects of the new labelling guidelines, including colours, format and font sizes.

All the major food retailers have signed up to the scheme, which combines traffic light colour-coding and nutritional information to help people make informed choices when doing their food shopping.

Andrew Opie, BRC Director of Food and Sustainability, said: “This is great news for consumers. A consistent scheme across all the major supermarkets means wherever we shop we will see the same front of pack labelling. That will help improve understanding of the label and make healthier choices easier.

“UK retailers have led the way on developing clear and consistent front of pack labelling over the last few years and we are delighted to see that such an important project is today getting the green light.” – See more at: http://www.brc.org.uk/brc_news_detail.asp?id=2459#sthash.Sy8PRo6h.dpuf

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