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New Food Labelling Scheme To Launch In UK Supermarkets

Published on Jun 18 2013 11:00 AM in Packaging And Design

New Food Labelling Scheme To Launch In UK Supermarkets

Traffic light-coded labels which indicate how much fat, sugar, salt and sugar a food product contains are to appear on the majority of UK food products in the near future, in a bid to end labelling confusion for shoppers. Many of the major UK supermarket chains have signed up to the scheme already, along with many food producers such as Nestl√©, Mars, Premier Foods and PepsiCo. 

The traffic light labelling scheme, which has long been recommended by health professionals, involves a hybrid combination of 'traffic light'-style colour logos and 'reference intakes', which is the new term for 'RDAs'. The new traffic light labels are intended to help consumers to know at a glance whether a product contains a low, medium or high amount of sugar, salt, fat, saturated fat and calories. 

According to the Department of Health, the businesses that have signed up to use the new label to date will account for some 60% of the food that is sold in the UK.

The scheme has already been launched in-store by Waitrose and Asda. Major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, M&S and the Co-Op will begin to use the labels 'imminently', though some may take a few months to rebrand their packaging, the UK Department of Health said. 

While many food producers - including Mars, Bernard Matthews and McCain Foods - have already signed up to the scheme, major multinationals including Cadbury, Coca Cola and United Biscuits have not. McCain Foods is the only major food manufacturer to already use colour coding on packets. In terms of retailers, M&S, Sainsbury's and Waitrose all already use some form of colour-coded labelling on packaging. 

One key worry for manufacturers and retailers is the potential for thousands of previously 'amber'-coded products (such as sandwiches and ready meals) to be "red-lighted" under the new scheme, with the acceptable threshold for salt to drop from 2.4g per portion to 1.8g.

Somewhat controversially, however, the new scheme also includes higher thresholds for sugar, with a switch from the recommendation of 12.5g of added sugar per 100g to a level of 22.5g total sugars per 100g. 

Chief executive of the British Heart Foundation Simon Gillespie described it as a 'first-class scheme', which will "make it easier for shoppers to scan the shelves and make more informed choices about what's going into their trolley".

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry described the move as a major step forward for UK labelling efforts and encouraged manufacturers to sign up to the pledge.

"The UK already has the largest number of products using a front-of-pack label in Europe but we know that people get confused by the variety of labels that are used," she said. 

She continued, "Research shows that, of all the current schemes, people like this label the most and they can use the information to make healthier choices." (19 June)

¬© 2013 - ESM: European Supermarket Magazine by Ellen Lunney

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