Food Labelling claims under spotlight in the UK

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th July 2008

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revised its guidance on the use of marketing terms, such as ‘fresh’, ‘pure’ and ‘natural’ for food labelling.

Such claims are widely used in advertising and on packaging to promote the benefits of products but concerns have been raised as to what the labels really mean.

The Agency consulted more than 1200 stakeholder organisations about the labelling guidance that it issued in 2002 and their revised guidance includes advice on new terms that have been introduced such as: farmhouse pâté, handmade, quality, selected, premium, finest and best.

It also has new advice for some of the terms that were in the previous guidance – and advises against the use of some terms that can cause confusion.

“Marketing terms are useful to enable industry to differentiate their products but need to be used in a way that is meaningful to consumers,” said Stephen Pugh, head of the Food Labelling Branch at the Food Standards Agency. “In our guidance, developed with consumer organisations, industry and enforcement bodies, we have suggested the conditions when certain marketing terms can be used. These conditions reflect current consumer understanding and perceptions of these terms.”

The guidance assists manufacturers, producers, retailers and caterers decide when these descriptions may be used and when they should not. Use of these terms are to ensure transparent labelling practices.

Such labelling issues have also been of concern in Australia with the ACCC looking to crackdown on any misleading labelling which would contravene the Trade Practices Act.