Food manufacturers should adopt ‘activity equivalent’ calorie labels

By Laurence Gibbons contact

- Last updated on GMT

Telling people how much exercise is needed to burn off calories consumed could boost health
Telling people how much exercise is needed to burn off calories consumed could boost health

Related tags: Obesity

Food and drink manufacturers should adopt ‘activity equivalent’ calorie labelling on their products which show how much activity is needed to burn off the calories in them, according to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

The RSPH hoped the move would help tackle the UK’s growing obesity crisis. Labels should take the form of “prominent pictorial icons”​ alongside existing front-of-pack information to increase consumer awareness both of the calories contained within food and drink and the activity required to burn them off.

Although nutritional information currently provided on food and drink packaging has improved, it is evident that it isn’t working as well as it could to support the public in making healthy choices, RSPH ceo Shirley Cramer claimed.

 “Activity equivalent calorie labelling provides a simple means of making the calories contained within food and drink more relatable to people’s everyday lives, while also gently reminding consumers of the need to maintain active lifestyles and a healthy weight,”​ she said.

Tackling obesity epidemic

“Given the responsibility of the food industry in tackling the obesity epidemic, we believe activity equivalent calorie labelling could provide the nudge many people need to be more active and support their customers to make healthier choices.”

The call is included in a policy paper by RSPH which claimed many people find current front-of-pack nutritional information confusing, with many suffering from ‘information overload’ when it comes to making healthy purchasing decisions.

RSPH survey in numbers

  • 63% of people would support the move
  • 53% said it would help them make positive behavioural changes

Source: Populas interviewed 2,010 adults on behalf of RSPH 

Two-thirds of people would support the introduction of ‘activity equivalent’ calorie labelling and more than half said it would help them make healthier food choices, the RSPH claimed.

The labelling could help improve levels of physical activity among British people, it added.

More effective than ‘traffic light’ labelling

Respondents to a survey by the RSPH said they were three times more likely to undertake physical exercise after viewing ‘activity equivalent’ labelling than ‘traffic light’ labelling.

Steven Ward, executive director of physical activity promotion group ukactive, said anything that can boost physical activity is a step in the right direction.

“Encouraging people to be more active is a positive message, more about supporting people to start rather than imploring them to stop,”​ he said.

“Physical activity has been described by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges as a ‘miracle cure’ so we should treat it as just that.

Below: RSPH​s proposals for activity equivalent calorie labelling

Activity equivalent

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And then...

Posted by Oriol Agell,

... the questions are if such a piece of information on the labels, which undoubtedly may be of consumer interest, would fall under -and be allowed by- the Regulation UE 1924/2006 (on nutrition and health claims made on foods). And if it should be asked for a previous authorisation.

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Posted by Bob Salmon,

What would you put on a packet of butter? Some people may not eat a whole packet at once.

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Posted by Justin Crews,

We've been saying this for years and we should add this educational piece to consumer education in the US. The truth is that exercise and activity is the "miracle cure" for obesity. Over- nutrition is the next hurdle now that the developed world has an understanding of how to tackle malnutrition.

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