Food Law News - UK - 2004

FSA Press Release (R1018-43), 25 November 2004

LABELLING - Agency research suggests people believe signposting would make healthier eating easier

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today released new research suggesting that people would like simple signposts to help them to make informed and healthier food choices.

The FSA's Action Plan on Food Promotions and Children's Diet and the Government's White Paper launched on Tuesday 16th November 2004 both identified signposting as a possible way to help people to make healthier food choices.

The FSA has been working with stakeholders and has developed a number of different signposting options. Five have been tested with people to find out what they prefer.

The Agency will now work with the food industry, consumer groups and public health groups to develop these options, and potentially other suggestions, to see what will work best in practice. All of these will be tested through further research into how people react to them.

Gill Fine Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health, Food Standards Agency, said:

‘People have told us they want to make healthier food choices and that they would welcome signposting to help them.

‘We want to know what people want and what they would find useful. We will therefore test out the options in shops and work with stakeholders to do this. We need to ensure that what we recommend will be useful and workable.'

Three of the five options combined the main nutrients into a single measure. These were:

The other two options showed separate key nutrient information for the total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. These were:

Two of the signposts were clearly preferred: the 'Simple Traffic Light' and the 'Multiple Traffic Light'. The FSA will now test all the options in shops, working with the food industry. The Agency plans to complete this work during summer 2005.

In addition the Agency has commissioned research to develop a scheme to categorise foods on the basis of the nutrients they contain. This could help underpin some of the signposting options. It could also be used more widely, such as to help identify healthier options for use in vending machines in schools and tackle the current imbalance in TV advertising aimed at children.

This research, which represents a significant step forward, is being launched for a 12-week consultation. [See related news item: 25 November 2004]

The following additional notes are provided:

Signposting Consumer Research - Concept testing of Alternative Labelling of Healthy/Less Healthy Foods – Navigator (Oct 2004)

The Agency funded 24 focus groups exploring consumers' responses to, and understanding of five different signposting concepts.

Nutrient Profiles: Options for definitions for use in relation to food promotion and children's diets

The Agency study was led by a team from the British Health Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University .

The work was overseen by an Expert Group, comprising nutrition scientists, dieticians, food industry and consumer organisations' representatives and policy makers.

The project has developed an approach for children aged 11-15 based on the balance of selected micro and macro nutrients in individual foods, and which takes account of the positive contribution to the diet of foods such as cheese and dried fruit as well as their fat, salt or sugar content.

However, they are likely to be applicable to other age groups, and work extending the principle in this way is in hand.

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