from Owen Warnock, partner, Eversheds LLP (commercial law practice)

Sir; The nutritional labelling recommendations by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee will cause massive upheaval and will need significant buy-in from the industry if they are to be successful.
The committee recommends clear labelling, such as the traffic-light signposting proposed by the Food Standards Agency, to help shoppers make healthier choices; and it is also urging supermarkets to help drive forward the campaign for better labelling.
However, any proposed labelling system is likely to meet with strong resistance.
Any simple labelling system, while good on paper, will not be met with universal enthusiasm by food manufacturers.
First, it could be seen as unfair on their products.
There is also still a legitimate debate about what is good and bad for you and about appropriate levels of nutrients - this could lead to a labelling nightmare where packaging is being changed every time the debate shifts views.
Then there is the problem of how guidance would be drafted on this topic.
The new labels would still need to include the compulsory nutrition tables already in force.
In addition, any system would have to be voluntary, as a compulsory system would mean a likely interference with the EU single market.
A voluntary system would need substantial buy-in from both food manufacturers and retailers and would therefore have to meet companies’ commercial needs as well as the committee’s public health concerns.
This is an issue that is set to run and run because of the ever-changing nature of the food industry
I remain sceptical that a labelling system such as the one being suggested by the committee will ever become a reality.