Tesco is to make a radical change to its food packaging by moving nutritional labelling from the back to the front of packs.
The new look - which will work along the same lines as Sainsbury’s front-of-pack ‘Wheel of Health’ system - is set to be unveiled next week as Tesco aims to keep one step ahead of the Food Standards Agency by providing customers with better nutritional information. It has been working on the concept since last September after the FSA criticised the industry for confusing consumers with misleading food labels.
The FSA has now completed its own research into nutritional profiling and will soon decide how foods are to be classified in the future. Although consultation on signposting closed this week, the agency does not intend to release findings until after the general election on May 5.
The agency has been asking 1,700 consumers to compare their understanding of new signposting concepts to existing information on packs. The concepts include simple traffic lights that give a product a red, amber or green label; a multiple traffic-light system; and guideline daily amounts (GDA).
British Retail Consortium director general Kevin Hawkins reiterated his opposition to the simplified food labelling. He said: “While effective signposting
and labelling can help consumers make informed choices, the BRC will continue to warn against simplistic systems that run the risk of demonising foods that play an important role in a varied and healthy diet.”
Professor Tom Sanders, a nutritionist at King’s College, London, said signposting would cause confusion and would not be a helpful model. But he said better guidance on labelling was needed to help consumers make healthier choices.
As The Grocer went to press, the European Union was taking another step to cement its plans to regulate the use of potentially misleading labels such as ‘fat-free’ or ‘light’. The parliamentary health committee was due to vote to finalise initial proposals for nutrition legislation, after considering 350 amendments, which would override any UK voluntary system.
Former MEP and EU public health committee member David Bowe said legislation was essential for consumers and urged the industry to get involved. “There is still time to influence this before the vote in May. After that, the industry should be talking to UK civil servants to make sure its voice is heard.”
Fiona McLelland & Amy Balchin