Consumers will be able to make healthier choices about the food they eat with the introduction of a new, consistent system of front of pack labelling, according to health minister Anna Soubry.
The announcement of the proposed system – a combination of guideline daily amounts (GDA), colour coding and high/medium/low text – comes after a three-month consultation with retailers, manufacturers and other interested parties on what a consistent, clear front of pack label should look like.
Many retailers already use variants of a hybrid system, and some provide only GDA. However they each display the information with different visuals, colour and content making it hard for consumers to compare foods.
Following the announcement, the UK government will be working with industry and other partners to agree the detail of the system and make sure they use consistent visuals to show – on front of packs – how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, and how many calories are in food products.
Soubry said: “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.
“Obesity and poor diet cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses – such as heart disease – later in life.”
Following the statement, a spokesperson for The Co-operative Food said: “We were the first retailer to use front-of-pack nutrition labelling back in 1995, adopted the traffic light scheme in 2006, and have been using a hybrid labelling scheme, combining both traffic light labelling and Guideline Daily Amount information, for two years. Shoppers can see at a glance whether a product has a high, medium or low amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and how it contributes to their recommended daily intake.
“Our customers tell us they like the clarity with which the label is presented and find the information provided useful. We believe hybrid labelling gives people the best possible chance to make an informed choice to ensure a balanced diet, and we fully support the recommendations made by the Department of Health and would urge all retailers and manufacturers to adopt this approach.”
The new label is expected to be in use by summer 2013.
Source: Department of Health/Co-op