Food Law News - UK - 2005

FSA Consultation Letter, 18 March 2005

LABELLING - Further consumer research on signposting labelling

The Agency's Action Plan on Food Promotions and Children's Diets and the recently published Choosing Health White Paper for England contains a commitment to develop a single UK wide signposting scheme to make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices. Responses are requested by: 15 April 2005

Consultation details

This initiative complements work being taken forward as part of the Scottish Action Plan Eating for Health, Meeting the Challenge, the Welsh strategy 'Food and Wellbeing' and the proposed Food and Nutrition Strategy for Northern Ireland .

This work also has an important role in reducing potential confusion caused by the increasing range of different food retailer and manufacturer signposting schemes being applied in the UK at the current time.

In November last year, the Agency published the results of qualitative research to examine what form of signposting consumers would find most helpful. The research revealed strong support for the principle of signposting, and identified two of the five formats tested as being particularly promising. These were:

In December, the Agency held a stakeholder meeting to discuss the outcomes of this research. At the meeting it was agreed that the Agency should:

The findings of the focus group work are set out below, together with an outline of the next phase of the consumer research, on which views on some specific issues are sought.

Focus group research to Improve the GDA execution

The signposting working group (which was set up in January 2005 and comprises representatives from retailing, manufacturing and consumer organisations) was consulted on the study design for this research. The key findings in relation to GDA executions were as follows:

The research also reached the following conclusions:

As was the case in the first phase of research, there was strong support among consumers for the idea of signposting as a tool to help them make healthier choices.


On the basis of the results of the research, and taking account of the views of the Signpost working group, it is proposed that the GDA design featuring colour coding, and using numbers rather than bar charts (i.e. option 7), should be included in the second phase of research.

Design of quantitative consumer research

The next phase of research will test consumers' understanding of the most popular signposting concepts identified from earlier research, and the reasons for this. For the purposes of this research, the effectiveness of each signposting concept will be judged by the ease with which it allows the consumer to make an assessment of the product, in terms of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar content, and to compare the nutrient content of similar products; and consumers' preferences for each signpost concept.

The proposed methodology, which has been developed with input from the Signposting working group, is as follows:

To ensure robustness, the study has been designed to ensure that consumers consider each concept in detail, without interviewee fatigue, and as such the research has to be limited to testing a maximum of four signposting options. These will include the following three concepts:

It would be possible to include a fourth option, which could take the form of one of the following:

It is intended that fieldwork for the quantitative research will start in May, and be published later in the summer.

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