FSA’s label proposals in danger of being ignored


So, will you adopt the multiple traffic light labelling scheme proposed by the Food Standards Agency and put it on the front of your packs next year? On the face of it, that’s all you should be asking yourselves this week.

Sure, the FSA is giving you another 12 weeks to give your views on its so-called MTL scheme. But, as we warned you for most of last year, traffic lights are what the government wants and the FSA is seemingly prepared to give it what it wants. Both are going to take some convincing that they are wrong - even though the FSA’s research found consumers liked one of the labelling alternatives (but the agency says some poor people were too stupid to understand it).

Short of some amazing U-turn, the FSA will early next year start pressing you to add MTL labels to all your ready meals, pies and pizzas. Why just those products? I’m not sure. Perhaps the FSA has decided poor people are not only stupid, they also only eat ready meals, pies and pizzas, and that’s something to be discouraged.

Whatever, the serious point in all of this is whether multiple traffic light labels will be embraced by retailers and manufacturers - or whether they will be ignored.

And there is a real danger that if the FSA sticks with this solution the latter will happen.

For starters, there are plenty of people out there who feel strongly that MTL labelling is wrong and they are perfectly entitled to stick two fingers up to the scheme (rightly ignoring those empty threats of legislation that have been issued by government in the past year).

And then there are those who have already developed their own schemes. As the pressure on retailers and suppliers mounted last year, health topped the agenda at most companies, making it one of the key competitive issues for the industry. That resulted in novel labelling solutions popping up all over the place. If a company thinks its solution is better than that now proposed by the FSA, why would it change?

The answer, I guess, is that retailers and manufacturers should unite behind a common solution. The plethora of schemes now on the market helps nobody - it only confuses consumers further (not just those stupid poor people with pie problems).

Unfortunately, I don’t think the FSA’s scheme is the best way forward. And neither, I suspect, do most of you.
MTL scheme: a light too far?