Govt reignites universal health labelling plans

The government is to urge food manufacturers and retailers to adopt a universal system of showing health information on food products as part of its wider efforts to encourage people to make healthier choices.


The plan, which reignites calls for a single front-of-pack ‘traffic light’ system, is being launched today (14 May) by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Manufacturers and retailers will be asked to drop their individual health labelling systems and introduce a common system to show fat, salt, sugar and calorie information on the front of food products.

The Department of Health claims the different labelling systems used by brands cause confusion among UK shoppers and that “one clear system” would make it easier “to compare the nutritional information provided on the food consumers buy.”

A 12-week consultation period will begin next week. All participating parties will be asked to give their view on what a universal labeling scheme would look like.

It is likely the move will be met with some resistance by retailers, who have invested heavily in their own health labeling schemes over the last few years.

The scheme could be expected to form part of the next phase of the government’s Responsibility Deal, launched last year to help cut five billion calories from the nation’s daily diet. In 2010, Tesco introduced a range of healthy-eating labels across 700 of its own-label products to signpost healthier options for shoppers.

Lansley says: “”Offering a single nutrition labeling system makes common sense, it would help us all to make healthier choices and keep track of what we eat.”

“Initiatives like the Responsibility Deal are already showing what can be achieved if we work in partnership with industry.”

The Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF) Director of Food Safety & Science, Barbara Gallani, says:

“We know that some consumers find front-of-pack labelling valuable, and are committed as an industry to helping more consumers make healthier choices. UK food manufacturers have voluntarily been providing comprehensive nutrition information on packaging for many years. This includes detailed back of pack information along with clear front of pack information with guideline daily amounts on calories, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.”

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