FSA News Item, 9 March 2006
The Food Standards Agency Board has agreed its recommendation for a consistent approach to front of pack labelling that will help make it easier for people to choose a healthier diet.
The Agency's recommendations are based on four core principles. These have been developed as a result of extensive consumer research and feedback from supermarkets, manufacturers, consumer and public health groups.
Sainsbury's and Waitrose are the first retailers to use the recommended colour-coded approach on products and Asda will follow shortly. The Agency will continue to encourage other supermarkets and manufacturers to adopt the four core principles as the basis for their voluntary front of pack schemes. The Agency will work with food businesses and consumers to monitor and evaluate take-up and impact of the scheme.
Deirdre Hutton, Chair of the Food Standards Agency said: 'We all lead busy lives, so making healthier choices when shopping needs to be quick and easy. Developing a consistent way of clearly highlighting how much fat, sugar and salt a food contains will make it simpler for people to put healthy eating advice into practice when shopping.
'The evidence of buying patterns is that people are looking for healthier foods and they have told us that traffic light colours are key to helping them understand and use front of pack food labels.
'The industry has moved a long way and we warmly welcome, in particular, commitments from Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Asda to provide such clear information. We want to see more supermarkets and manufacturers adopting our core principles as this type of labelling will be effective in helping their customers to improve their health.'
The agreed FSA core principles will allow supermarkets and manufacturers to develop their own labelling with an individual look and feel that appeals to their shoppers. The FSA Board recommended that front of pack labelling schemes should:
Extensive Agency consumer research shows that many people find the nutritional information currently found on the back of pack difficult to use.
Although several supermarkets and manufacturers have already developed their own front of pack schemes, people say that they want a consistent approach endorsed by an authoritative, independent and trusted body such as the FSA.
Published consumer research has shown that the use of traffic light colours is key to helping people understand whether a food has high, medium or low levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and take charge of their own health.
Christian Cull, Waitrose Marketing Director, said: ‘Waitrose and our customers feel that a consistent approach, as proposed by the FSA, will be the best way to allow consumers to make informed decisions about what they eat.
‘Our customers wanted an easy-to-follow, transparent labelling system and traffic light colours – as recommended by the FSA – was their preferred approach. It also leaves plenty of room on the back of pack for all the information on Guideline Daily Amounts that our customers expect from us.'
Justin King Sainsbury's Chief Executive said: ‘We support the use of a labelling system which uses traffic light colours. It is the simplest and clearest way of giving customers the information they are looking for.
‘We launched our own Wheel of Health labelling system, which is in line with the FSA's recommendations, over a year ago. The Wheel of Health is now on over 1,200 of our products and has proved very popular with our customers who tell us it helps them to identify healthier choices at a glance.'
Sue Malcolm, ASDA's Nutrition Manager, said: ‘Customers don't want thousands of different types of nutritional labels in their favourite stores – that's why we are backing the FSA's proposals to get nutritional information across in a clear, consistent, simple and informative way.
‘We see this as a combination of colour coding coupled to percentage GDA declarations and will be working closely with the FSA and other bodies to make this happen.'