MEPs are voting today on the Environment committee’s amended proposal for the food information regulation. The vote, following the first reading in Parliament, is a milestone in the drawn-out process of harmonising information on food packs across the 27 member states and lobbying by stakeholders has been intense.
Although there are a range of different schemes in use and proposed for displaying nutritional information on packs, much of the debate so far has been around the Guidance Daily Amount (GDA) system developed by the food industry, and the colour-coded traffic light system.
A UK study on consumer preferences last year a study 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.
However German health consulting group EgoFit is today publicising the results of a 1000-participant study which compared understanding of its sCALe system to GDAs.
The sCALe system is based on one parameter only: the amount of energy contained in a food product. It is presented as a scale, with 1cm representing 100 kcals. The proportion of calories from different nutrients are then blocked out on the scale in colour: red for protein, yellow for fat, green for carbohydrate, and blue for alcohol (envisaged at a later stage).
GDAs, on the other hand, graphically give a product’s energy (calories), fat, saturated fat and sugar content as a percentage of recommended limits for an average woman.
A study conducted by Prof Dr Henry Schulz of Chemnitz University pitted sCALe against GDA on conciseness, information content, comprehensibility and favourite model. It concluded that sCALe was better accepted by all age groups than GDAs.
EgoFit spokesperson Jessica Bodsch told FoodNavigator.com that the system was developed two years ago, but it is not currently being used by food manufacturers on their products.
The organisation has communicated about the scale to the Envi committee’s rapporteur, German MEP Renate Sommer, as well as to EUFIC. Bodsch said food companies appear to be waiting for today’s vote to be over with, to have a view on how GDAs are accepted. She said GDA’s are the food industry’s “baby”, and that the may cast about for alternatives if they are not accepted.
But even if a GDA-like format is adopted for food packages, she said the scale could be used in other non-label information sources, such as on the internet and for smart phones.