News is widespread that the UK Government are introducing a new Front-of-Pack Food Labelling system, as of next summer. The idea behind the new system is that consumers will be able to see “at a glance” whether the foods they are eating are healthy or not in order to allow the public to make informed choices.
Within the UK and Europe there is currently relatively strict regulation around food labelling laws. However, front-of-pack labels are voluntary and therefore do not have to be provided by law.
There has previously been controversy around the type of labelling used on products with some supermarkets and/or manufacturers choosing to display the traffic light system (see image 1 below) and others choosing to display Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) (see image 2) on the front of their food packages.
There are a number of pros and cons to each system and the use of the two different systems has obviously lead to further confusion for consumers.
Nevertheless, it seems the government have finally made a decision to introduce a new food labeling system that combines the two designs above (how they did not come to this conclusion before is beyond me). It is not yet known what the new labeling system will look like but the Food Standards Agency’s image here is likely to be a close match:
Despite the delay, this is a huge step in the right direction for public health, as these labels should, put simply, allow consumers to identify the foods that they should be eating less often. It also allows more information in the form of the GDAs which display how much the product contributes towards an average person’s Guideline Daily Amount of certain nutrients (e.g. sugar, fat and salt).
However, these labels are still not clear for everyone and, for those of you interested, we recommend you take a look at our easy guide to label reading blog which we feel makes label reading much simpler.
Although we are pleased that action has been taken to develop the front-of-pack labelling system, there is still a lot of work needed to allow labels to encourage the public to make the RIGHT choices about the foods they are eating. Additionally, foods with labels are, more often than not, processed foods and therefore clearly foods that we should be eating less of.
An article from the New York Times also made some very important points:
1.) That food labels do not consider the actual “foodness” of a product – for example, how far is the product from it’s natural form and how much processing has occurred before the product reaches the shelves.
2.) That the welfare of the food is not taken into account – including the treatment of animals in the manufacturing process as well as the treatment of workers and the land used to grow the foods.
These are two vital points well made by the New York Times article and something we very much agree with. But, as they say, small steps lead to big change so here is hoping……