Manufacturers have pledged to use common GDA labels

Manufacturers have pledged to use common GDA labels

Food manufacturers including Nestle, Mondelez International and Unilever have announced plans to "harmonise" the way they label the nutritional information for products sold in the EU.

Twelve companies, which also include Kellogg, Mars Inc and Ferrero, have made a pledge to use information on guideline daily amounts, or GDAs, in a "consistent" manner.

The companies said the move was a reaction to new EU rules on food labelling and added consumers would have "meaningful nutritional information" on products.

Labels will include calorie information on the front of packs, presented per 100 grams or millilitres in addition to per portion, the companies said. The calore information means manufacturers will have to alter some of the information they already provide. The changes will come in by the end of 2014, the manufacturers, which also include General Mills and Danone, said.

Today's (14 November) announcement came as FoodDrinkEurope, the industry association for manufacturers in Europe issued what it called a "renewed GDA labelling commitment".

FoodDrinkEurope president Jesus Sarafin Perez said: "In pledging this new commitment, manufacturers are encouraged in their efforts to provide simple, objective and factual information on pack across all markets in the EU, enabling consumers to better manage their individual diets."

However, the pledge from the 12 manufacturers and FoodDrinkEurope's commitment did not mention the use of traffic lights on nutrition labels. Campaigners argue traffic lights are clearer and easier for consumers to understand but critics, particularly within the food industry, argue the labels are a blunt instrument.

Last month, the UK government recommended food manufacturers and retailers use a mixed approach to nutrition labels, using GDAs and traffic lights. Its announcement followed moves by several UK retailers, including Tesco and Morrisons, to say they will use both methods of presenting nutritional information.

The UK's Food and Drink Federation, which represents food and soft drink manufacturers, has long favoured GDAs.

A statement issued by the FDF after the UK government's announcement fell short of embracing the hybrid system but said it would engage in further discussions with officials.

Sainsbury's, which introduced traffic light labels onto its own-label products in 2005, believe the industry should use one system.

Chief executive Justin King has called on the UK grocery companies to "put aside their differences" and introduce "universal" labelling.