UK health ministers call for single front-of-pack labelling system

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th May 2012

UK health ministers have launched a nationwide consultation on front-of-pack food product labelling in a new push to see all food UK food manufacturers and retailers using the same system to provide nutritional information.

Currently in the UK it is not a legal requirement to declare Nutritional information on the product packaging. However, companies are recommended to declare nutritional information as consumers more than ever are investigating this information before making a purchase.

Around 80 per cent of food products sold in the UK already have some form of front-of-pack-labelling, but different retailers and manufacturers use different labelling systems. According to the UK Government’s Department of Health, this can be confusing for consumers.

Aim of the consultation

The shared objectives of the 4 UK Governments are to:

• Maintain and extend the use of front-of-pack labelling across the widest possible range of food and drink products;

• Achieve the greatest possible consistency in the content and presentation of front-of-pack nutrition labelling, in a form that is clearest and most useful to consumers.

In launching the consultation, the Department of Health said that if the biggest seven UK supermarkets use the same labelling system for their private label products, this would equate to around 50 per cent of the food sold in the UK and would also encourage others to adopt the same scheme.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said, “Offering a single nutrition labelling system makes common sense, it would help us all to make healthier choices and keep track of what we eat.

“We want to work with businesses and others to provide consistent, useful information for consumers across the UK.”

Officials in all UK countries intend to share the received consultation responses, so that UK Ministers can consider them in their post consultation deliberations. The consultation runs until Monday 6 August.

Australian situation

The Australian State and Territory food ministers, under the umbrella of the Federal Government’s Forum on Food Regulation, are currently investigating a suitable front-of-pack nutrition labelling model as an alternative to the Traffic Light system or Dietary Intake system.

In November 2011, the Federal Government announced that it does not support the Traffic Light or Daily Intake Guide labelling systems.

At the time, Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon said, “During consultation with stakeholders, we concluded that there is currently not enough evidence to demonstrate that any of form of front-of-pack labelling, including Traffic Light labelling and the Daily Intake Guide provides Australians with the nutritional information they need to make informed choices.”

The Forum is aiming to develop a suitable system by the end of 2012.

Recent technological developments and health findings are likely to be considered as part of the review.