Elaine Watson
Food manufacturers need to label the fat, sugar and salt content of their products more clearly but should not carry the can for rising obesity levels, claimed young managers polled for our Reader Panel this week.
A whopping 83% of IGD's Leading Edge membership said manufacturers should label the nutritional content of their products more clearly, while two thirds (68%) felt retailers should do more to actively encourage customers to eat a more balanced diet.
Although labelling rules were already pretty stringent in the UK, said one member, manufacturers could make them simpler. "Few people understand the differences between fat and saturated fat, or what the flavourings, sugar types and E numbers mean on the packet in relation to their health levels." However, sedentary lifestyles were as much to blame as processed food for epidemic levels of obesity in children, they warned. "Blaming a few manufacturers for the ill heath of the nation is daft. Parents have a more important role to play in educating their children's eating habits, as well as having a role to play by refusing to give them all they ask for."
Opinion was divided over Labour MP Debra Shipley's Private Member's Bill that would impose a ban on the television advertising ban of less healthy foods during programmes watched by the under-fives; 47% agreed with her proposal and 53% were against.
One panel member said: "The cause of obesity is a bad diet generally and lack of exercise.
"An advertising ban does not tackle the root cause of the problem, even though I recognise it is well-intentioned."
The government could also do more through "more help for fresh produce producers and more money for marketing fresh produce" said another.
"As an industry we should promote balance but shout about healthier options."
The panel suggested positive ways in which retailers and manufacturers might promote healthier lifestyles.
These included offering tokens that could be redeemed at leisure centres and swimming pools, sponsoring sports events, offering activity holidays and developing campaigns to educate on food and nutrition, rather than merely promoting the products.
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