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Hybrid labels will be a 'massive blow' to suppliers

By Laurence Gibbons , 05-Oct-2012
Last updated on 05-Oct-2012 at 18:23 GMT

It is "inevitable" that the Department of Health (DoH) will recommend a single hybrid front-of-pack labelling system that combines guideline daily amounts (GDAs) and traffic light labelling, which will serve a massive blow to the industry.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has campaigned against a traffic light system, preferring the more scientific GDAs, where the labels show percentages of sugar, salt, fat and calories in each serving.

The DoH is currently consulting on whether or not to make the move to a single hybrid system, but the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it was likely the decision had already been made and was now waiting for government approval.

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, assistant director at BRC, said the changes were inevitable. "The desire will be to recommend it as soon as possible in order to keep momentum and focus," she said.

'Have to listen'

"Consumers are positive towards the system and our members have to listen to what they want."

Morrisons said it would adopt the hybrid labelling system. A spokesman said: "We've been working with the government and have decided to take this hybrid system on because there is now enough consensus among retailers."

Morrisons would be the last of the big four supermarkets to adopt the system, following Tesco's announcement last month that it would also use it.

Sainsbury was the first multiple to introduce front-of-pack labelling combining GDAs and traffic lights in January 2005. Asda has used a similar system since 2007.

Traffic lights

Waitrose, The Co-operative, Lidl and Marks & Spencer have all adopted traffic lights and GDAs.

Iceland, the only supermarket chain not to use traffic light labelling, refused to comment.

The last set of guidance from the Food Standards Agency, before its responsibility for nutrition and health were transferred to the DoH, recommended the combination of GDAs and traffic lights as the best option for consumers.

The DoH acknowledged that a single system would be helpful from a consumer point of view, but refused to pre-empt any announcement.

Public health minister, Anna Soubry, said: "All the major supermarkets in the UK are now committed to developing a single nutrition labelling system.

"We welcome Morrisons' move towards this and continue to work with industry and partners towards a clear and consistent scheme."

The Provision Trade Federation (PTF) said it opposed the use of traffic lights for products within its remit. Clare Cheney, director general of PTF, said: "Traffic lights are not appropriate for foods such as lightly processed dairy and meat products, which form an important part of a healthy balanced diet."

A FDF spokesman said: "The consultation on front-of-pack has only recently drawn to a close and we look forward to further discussions once the Department of Health has had time to digest all of the responses received."

 

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