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UK’s health department backs standardised front-of-pack nutrition labels

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 01-Feb-2013

The health department has said it backs % GDAs in combination with colour coding
The health department has said it backs % GDAs in combination with colour coding

There is strong support from industry, government and NGOs to work toward consistent front-of-pack nutrition labelling in the UK by spring this year, according to the department of health.

A UK-wide consultation was carried out from May 14 to August 6 last year, in an effort to garner opinions on whether guideline daily amounts (GDAs) or traffic lights were preferred, and which other information should appear front-of-pack. The health department has said that it would work with industry to ensure consistent labelling, although it said that it would not work toward developing a common logo.

About 80% of packaged foods and drinks sold in the UK already carry some form of front-of-pack nutritional information, but it is thought that a plethora of different formats may confuse consumers.

In response to the consultation, the Department of Health and Devolved Administrations in the UK have issued a document in which they say they will work together with interested organisations to develop a consistent scheme based on % GDA and colour coding. However, thresholds for colour coding would require further consultation, it said.

“Officials in all four UK countries are working towards a fully developed scheme by Spring 2013, so that industry can relabel in time to be compliant with the EU FIC [Food Information for Consumers],” the document said.

UK ministers have said they would like to move toward labelling that shows the amount of calories per portion along with the total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content.

Currently, some retailers and manufacturers list GDAs as well as traffic light labels and text, while others only provide GDAs. In addition, the visual presentation of this information varies.

According to a recent survey  from market research firm Canadean, nearly three-quarters of UK consumers (73%) support a universal labelling system, while 32% say they prefer to buy foods that carry a traffic light label.

Across Europe, nearly half (48%) of all packaged food products have nutrition information front-of-pack, according to FLABEL (Food Labelling to Advance Better Education for Life). FLABEL says that GDAs and nutrition claims are the most common forms of front-of-pack nutrition information, both present on about a quarter of European foods.

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