How Should Food be Labelled?

People in the food industry including health experts, manufacturers and supermarkets will be asked about their views on the best way to label the nutritional information of food.

In the last few years, there have been many discussions about how to label and display the amount of calories, fat, salt and sugar in food, with many different systems in place.

The consultation that will be launched across the UK will take place by the government over the next 3 months.
Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, said that it was “common sense” to get everyone using the same system as it makes it easier for consumers to make a healthier choice when food shopping.

Some manufacturers and retailers have used a “traffic light” system which lists the healthiest foods are labelled in green and the least healthy foods are in red.

Some use a Guideline Daily Amounts or GDAs which gives consumers a percentage of recommended intake and others use both.

Consistency

At the end of last year, European regulations were agreed that nutritional information must be labelled per 100g or per portion. Lansley said to the BBC that it was “not possible” for him or other health ministers to “impose a solution other than the EU solution”.

But he said that he was eager to work with businesses to find a “consistent” approach which could be introduced across the UK.

Langley suggested that uniting both the GDA systems and the traffic light system could help consumers.
He suggested that combine both the traffic light and GDA systems could help consumers.

Langley said he was looking for a system which “incorporates not only what Europe requires in terms of recommended daily allowance for calories and sugar and salt and saturated fats, but in addition to that to give a means by which consumers can look at a glance, for example, using things like colour coding.”

Head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, told the BBC “We’re great fans of traffic lights, the simpler the better.”

However, she said the best system would be to have both the colour coding as well as the more detailed GDAs.
Dr Nathanson explained that everyone using the same system would be “enormously” helpful as people were put off by “having to adjust to a different label every time you look at a different food”.

In restaurants, mainly fast food ones, we have started seeing calorie content of foods displayed. Nutritional information has also been more widely available online if consumers want to check the content of their foods.

However, consumers can still be confused about what to eat that’s healthy, so it’s also about finding and sharing healthy recipes that families can cook themselves at home. Healthy eating should also be supported by everyone in the industry including chefs, restaurants, UK restaurant insurance providers, nutritionists and manufacturers.

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