Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Premier Foods have become the first major suppliers to be won round to the government’s new universal front-of-pack labelling scheme, which was launched by ministers today.
The hybrid scheme, which is voluntary, but backed by all the major supermarkets, involves a combination of traffic lights and reference intakes – a new term to replace GDAs – and has already been launched in store by Asda and Waitrose.
The DH claimed it would end the “bewilderment” suffered by consumers faced with competing systems, and it is expected to start appearing on shelves across all major retailers within weeks.
“The UK already has the largest number of products using a front-of-pack label in Europe but we know that people get confused by the variety of labels that are used”
Anna Soubry, minister
As previously revealed by The Grocer, the thresholds announced by the four UK governments include tougher targets for salt. Thousands of current products that have previously qualified for an amber warning light under the FSA system face being “red lighted”.
Ready meals and sandwiches are in the firing line, after the government insisted on slashing the threshold from 2.4g of salt per portion to 1.8g per portion.
However, the new system also includes a higher threshold for sugar, with some suppliers and NGOs already expressing concern that some products, including breakfast cereals high in added sugar, will get amber lights instead of red.
The new system is switching from the FSA-recommended 12.5g of added sugar per 100g to a level of totals sugars of 22.5g per 100g.
However, public health minister Anna Soubry said the move was a major step forward for UK labelling which would lead to less confusion among consumers.
An “unintended consequence” of the government’s new front-of-pack labelling system will mean many products that would have had a red light for sugar levels under previous FSA guidelines will qualify for an amber instead, it has emerged.
“The UK already has the largest number of products using a front-of-pack label in Europe but we know that people get confused by the variety of labels that are used,” she said.
“Research shows that, of all the current schemes, people like this label the most and they can use the information to make healthier choices.
“We all have a responsibility to tackle the challenge of obesity, including the food industry. By having all major retailers and manufacturers signed up to the consistent label, we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food – this is why I want to see more manufacturers signing up and using the label.”
Other suppliers signing up to the scheme, via a new Responsibility Deal pledge, include Bernard Matthews , Britvic, Hain Daniels Group, Lockwoods, Mash Direct, Moy Park and Young’s Seafood. McCain Foods, which already used front-of-pack labelling, has also signed up.