The best way to convey nutrition information on food and beverage packs is a matter of huge debate at the moment, since new European legislation is in the works that will determine mandatory information to be included across the bloc.
The draft proposal left the way open for national schemes to co-exist alongside an EU-wide approach, but this has remained a contentious issue.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has preferred a colour-coded ‘traffic light’ scheme, and has widely publicised this approach to consumers.
However a study on consumer preferences for front of pack labelling published in May found that the shoppers would prefer a scheme that combined three elements: traffic lights, guidance daily amounts (GDAs) of certain nutrients (as a percentage of daily requirements), and wording to indicate ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ content.
With a view to developing such a scheme to be used across all UK products, the FSA has today asked for views on the practical issues that would need to be resolved for consumers to use such a scheme in real life situations.
It is pressing ahead with this because it is confident that the coexistence of national schemes will remain in the regulation’s final version. In any case, first readings of the new law may not take place before the middle of next year, and there is likely to be a five year transition period to allow businesses to switch over if necessary.
The agency is seeking views on a number of areas, including the range of food categories to which such a scheme should be applied. It is currently proposing that it be used on sandwiches, ready meals, burgers and sausages, pies pasties and quiches, breaded or coated meats, pizzas, and breakfast cereals.
It also wants to know how calories should be included and whether it is a good idea to include saturated fat information in an integrated label.
For sugars, it is interested to know whether the GDA value should be all sugars or just added sugars. And for salt, should the information be given per 100g, per portion, or both.
The FSA is accepting comments until 5 November. More information on the consultation is available here.