19 June 2013

Another milestone in the development of food labelling aimed at helping to reduce obesity and other health related issues in the UK. A new front of package labelling scheme has been launched that will see the use of traffic lights to alert consumers to the content and nutritional value of products.

The scheme is only voluntary at this stage as any compulsory scheme would have to be turned into law. This would require approval at EU level. The EU has yet again shown itself unable to reach any agreement on what sort of labelling scheme is to be adopted, which is why the UK government has pressed ahead with the voluntary scheme.

The good news for the government is that all the major supermarkets have signed up to the scheme together with most of the key food manufacturers. Some major food manufacturers have not agreed to adopt the new scheme, most notably Coca Cola and Cadburys. They reject the adoption of the new ‘reference intake’ as a guide to what should be consumed in favour of the guideline daily amount (GDA) currently used by a number of manufacturers.

The consultation process undertaken prior to the launch revealed that most consumers found front of packaging labelling confusing. The expectation is that the adoption of a traffic light scheme will enable consumers to see at a glance what the product contains.

The fact that most major supermarkets have backed the scheme is likely to bring pressure on all major manufacturers to adopt the scheme over time.

In the meantime we will continue to monitor the ongoing debate within the EU to see whether we are any closer to seeing a scheme such as that adopted in the UK passing into law.

Key contact

Helen Scott-Lawler

Helen Scott-Lawler Partner

  • Head of Food and Drink
  • Commercial
  • Intellectual Property and Media

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