Manufacturers and retailers have clashed over government proposals to ban potentially misleading phrases such as natural', farm fresh', country style' and authentic' from food labels. The Food Standards Agency is drawing up a list of guidelines based on the recommendations of a report from its food advisory committee which criticised marketeers for misleading consumers. Food and Drink Federation corporate affairs chief Martin Paterson said manufacturers were already required by law to avoid misleading marketing claims under the 1990 Food Safety Act and questioned the need for further regulation. "It is interesting to note the FSA announcement is not able to cite even one issue where a majority of consumers misunderstood labelling terms," said Paterson. "UK food and drink manufacturers rely on the trust of their customers. If consumers feel that they have not made the bargain they thought, they will take their custom elsewhere. British consumers are savvy. We don't underestimate them. Neither should regulators." However, the Co-op Group accused the FDF of "burying its head in the sand" and said own label suppliers to the Co-op had been required to comply with the type of strict labelling guidelines suggested by the FSA since 1997. "There are clearly vested interests in the food industry actively working against an open and honest approach to labelling," said a spokesman. "Why is it taking the FDF so long to grasp that the industry has been falling behind consumer expectations on this?" Sainsbury said it had issued clear guidelines to own brand suppliers on labelling two years ago and imposed strict criteria for the use of terms such as fresh' and farmhouse'. "We don't envisage any problems complying with industry guidelines," said a spokesman, "and as such we welcome any proposals that give people more confidence in products on the shelves". Tesco said: "We feel we have led the way in responsible and transparent labelling and we welcome any guidelines that push for clear and accurate information for consumers." {{NEWS }}