Public combination and went into designing their own labelling

Public Organisations across the
world advocate the importance of three nutritional goals. First one is the
reduction of salt, reduced intake of saturated and trans fats and increased amount
of fruits and vegetables consumed (Viola et al., 2016).  More specifically, in 2011 the UN Political
Declaration on Non-communicable diseases prioritized salt reduction and
nutrition labelling interventions amongst other issues to reduce diet related
risk factors (Mwatsama, 2016).

Consumers who follow a healthy
lifestyle will rely on food labelling to make a healthy choice. If nutrition
labels are clear in providing information about fat or salt content, it could
attract people with basic knowledge on nutrition. With people making conscious
choices about food, this could result in a reduction of obesity and lower risk
of chronic disease incidence. In a wider perspective, it could benefit public
health when it comes to costs of medical systems (Viola et al., 2016).

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Food Industry

 

Manufacturer’s options are not
limited when it comes to designing the label if it complies with the following
standards:

 

1. All information provided on
fats, sugars and salt must be separate.
2. Colour coding (red, amber and green) should be used to indicate the health
status of a food.

3. Colour coding should be
determined according to the FSA nutritional criteria

4. Nutrient information should be
given as per portion of the product (Lobstein & Davies, 2009).

Many companies in the food industry have refused to follow this approach
and instead, they have continued using the GDA information on front-of-pack
labels. It has been observed in the UK that some manufactures have been using a
combination of both labelling schemes where they use colour-coding in the GDA
percentages (Lobstein & Davies, 2009).
Another issue that has been presented is the portion sizes. Food
Standards Agency states that colour-coding should be used per 100g portion
size. However, many food companies have not been following the suggested
portion sizes and they have been using their own suggested portion sizes which
most of the time leads to the confusion of the consumer.
However, some companies didn’t want to comply with the standard nutrition
labelling or their combination and went into designing their own labelling
scheme instead. The first example in the food manufacturer Kraft which launched
the ‘Sensible Solutions’ approach which gives information about whether the
product is ‘low’ in salt, fat, sugars or calories. Moreover, Unilever has been
using a single-score system which is using percentage energy of trans and
saturated fat, fat quality as a ratio of saturated to non-saturated fat, salt and
total sugars per unit energy and added sugar as percentage weight. (Lobstein
& Davies, 2009).

 

Are policies effective?

To say that a food labelling scheme is effective, its utility needs
to be questioned (Lobstein & Davies, 2009). This can be assessed by the
time it takes for a consumer to interpret the label, to what degree he’s able
to comprehend the information and judge if the product is healthy, what impact
this may have on its health and what impact it can have on food companies such
as product reformulation (Mwatsama, 2016). Various studies have been conducted in
regard to the impact food labelling has on the consumers and which labelling
scheme seems to be the most effective. A study that was conducted on 2,700
consumers across the UK showed that colour coded scheme is more effective over
GDA labelling. The justification lies within the fact that response times for
interpreting the information on the nutrition label was 30 percent faster for
TL labels than GDA labels. What was considered a success was that people from
lower socioeconomic groups could interpret the information easier on traffic
light labels compared to GDA labels. Other studies have determined that a
consumer spends on average 12 seconds looking at back-of-pack labelling while
only spending 6 seconds looking at front-of-pack labelling (Mwatsama, 2016). Another
systematic literature review looked at 38 studies and concluded that the colour
coding design of the traffic light scheme has been proven more effective in
helping consumers choosing the healthy option compared to the numerical design
of GDA (Hersey et al., 2014). Finally, a consumer organisation called ‘Which?’
carried out a survey in 2006 and the results showed that 73 percent of
consumers found it confusing to have more than one nutrition labelling scheme
on the products they were purchasing. After further research, the organisation
concluded that the colour coding scheme was the one that worked best for the
consumers because of the accuracy on nutrition levels and because it was easier
to make comparisons between products (Lobstein & Davies, 2009).

While there is a lot of focus
around labelling and how it can be more coherent to consumers, there are studies
which report that consumers take into consideration the origin of the product,
quality of ingredients, additives without looking at the nutrition labels. Also,
many consumers said that taste was the main factor in choosing their product
most of the time (Viola et
al., 2016).

Conclusion

 

Taking into consideration the fact
that consumers find multiple labelling methods confusing, it would be beneficial
if all manufacturers and food companies agreed on using the same labelling
scheme. Since there is strong evidence that traffic light labelling is preferable
than GDA scheme because of the colour coding, it would only make sense that all
companies in the food industry adopted this scheme. However, it has been
observed that many consumers do not use the food labels consciously and
emphasize on things like taste or origin of the product. Because of this, focus
should be given on educating people on nutrition and how a healthy diet can
benefit the health status of an individual and reducing the risk of developing
non-communicable diseases in the future. This way, the consumer can be more
aware of the risk associated with unhealthy eating and could make more conscious
choices when it comes to food with the help of nutrition labels (Viola et al.,
2016).