Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of the Dairy Council, said a recent online survey revealed that if consumers saw cheese products marked with red – as the new regulation that combines guideline daily amounts and traffic light labelling would demand – 75% would not consider it a healthy product and 58% would change their purchasing behaviour.
“Consumers will go into a supermarket and see standard Cheddar versus reduced fat Cheddar, versus reduced salt Cheddar and they will see a sea of red. That doesn’t help them choose between a product, and it doesn’t represent the nutrition of the products,” said Bryans. “So we have a real job of work to do with consumers in terms of education.”
She added that, although she would like to see government play a role in the education of consumers, that was unlikely to happen and dairy firms would have to fill that need.
“As an industry we would like to see government support in education, but we can’t leave it to government to do our job for us. They are our products, so as an industry we will have to do more in terms of education.”
The DH decided to back the hybrid approach in October 2012, after research found consumers to be confused by the way retailers displayed levels of salt, sugar fat and calories in their products.
But Bryans argued that this meant dairy products, such as cheese, would be presented negatively.
‘Not helpful to anyone’
“You could have a low-fat diet because you’ve looked at all those packs, but that might not be a nutritional diet,” she said. “There has to be some education about diet and building a nutritional diet. This regulation is not helpful to anyone in terms of nutritional intake.”
Jim Begg, director general, Dairy UK, said: “I understand that there is a need for clear labelling, but we want to find a way that enables us to demonstrate the nutritional integrity of our products at the same time as meeting the government’s agenda.”