Quote unquote: UK debate on food labelling, nutrition
Food and drink industry stakeholders gathered in London yesterday (7 November) for The Westminster Food & Nutrition conference. The topic of discussion surrounded food labelling policy in the UK and the challenges for food manufacturers. Speakers included the Food and Drink Federation, the British Medical Association and Defra.
"Front of pack systems can result in improvements to the objective of understanding, but the effects are small" - Dr Monique Raats, director of Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre, University of Surrey.
"I think we are going to see more mandatory labelling, but it puts pressure on companies when trying to fit all the relevant information on smaller packs" - Dr Paul Berryman, chief executive of Leatherhead Food Research.
"Food labelling is only a partial solution [to obesity]. The rest is about balance ... a balance of exercise and healthy eating. There is evidence that traffic light labelling will have some contribution to play in there" - Professor Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities, The British Medical Association.
"Consistency and familiarity are important. People need to feel confident about how and when to use [labelling systems] - Dr Raats on the role labelling systems have to play with consumers.
"Just because we have country-of-origin labelling for beef, it doesn't mean we should have it for all meat. Times are hard for consumers and for food companies and they don't need that added burden" - Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association says he is "very wary" of mandatory country-of-origin labelling across all meats.
"Labelling may have some impact on half of the food industry, like retail, but if you want to change food culture, you have to think more widely" - Peter Melchett, policy director at The Soil Association suggests education on healthy eating in schools would complement food labelling.
"We have to persuade businesses [food information regulation] is the right thing to do. One of the challenges is to encourage businesses by demonstrating its value to customers" - Phil Dalton, regulatory team leader, Legal Impackt.
"It is quite helpful to think of the obesity epidemic as having parallels with smoking. We need a much more fundamental change within our culture on what is normal and what is acceptable, just like in smoking where it became unacceptable" - Melchett.
"The main question is about getting consumers to read labels. Motivation and information are key. How can we reduce and simplify what is in pack?" - Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science, Food and Drink Federation.
"Does the customer understand what all the on-pack logos are? All [logo] standards have rules, but do customers understand them or are they just wanting to ensure they make the right decision" - Jonathan Roe, head of trading standards and compliance, Morrisons.
The GM debate has re-emerged in the UK in the last couple of weeks with the news four major supermarket operators will allow their suppliers to use GM feed for poultry and eggs....
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