Supermarkets have told MPs there is a need for a single nutritional body to administer guidelines on food labelling and to ensure that all parts of the industry are working toward the same goals.
Amid fears over rising obesity levels, consumers are becoming more aware of healthy eating and increasingly demanding more of these foods as well as information about their contents, said representatives from the Co-operative Group, Tesco and Asda.
Giving evidence to an Environment Food and Rural Affairs committee of MPs looking at food labelling this week, the three supermarkets
agreed there was a need for such a governing body. They said it could be either an existing group or a new body set up for the purpose and it should work with the BRC. Asda brand manager Penny Coates said having clarity and a single set of priorities would help when deciding how to label foods and could unite the industry. She said some shoppers were too busy to read extensive information or had a limited understanding of nutrition, but others required more detail, and all should be catered for.
“We need a single approach with timelines practical for all parties - and we have to find a way through that satisfies the most customers,” she said.
Head of the Co-operative Group brand, David Croft, said some government regulations did not help, such as referring to salt as sodium, which was not understood by all consumers.
He called for legal requirements to allow space for more detailed nutrition information and welcomed some form of external input saying: “There are a number of anomalies where a greater degree of consistency would be beneficial.”
Tesco’s CSR and government affairs director David North agreed that industry-wide regulations would be of additional benefit to consumers.
He said that Tesco’s customers were increasingly requesting information about food contents particularly in an accessible and easily understandable format.
“There is an increasing trend of customers saying they are more interested in healthy eating issues.
And he added: “The more the various parts of industry can work together, the better.”
Amy Balchin