Kellogg's healthy eating drive fails to get FSA support

Related tags Food standards agency Nutrition

A new nutrition bar chart on every pack of Kellogg's breakfast
cereal, enabling Britain's consumers to check salt, sugar and fat
content against guideline daily amounts, may cause confusion amid
too many conflicting systems, warns the UK Food Standards Agency,
reports Chris Mercer.

Kellogg's nutrition table will include amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, sugars, salt, calcium and iron and fibre per portion of cereal and compare these to Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) for adults.

Meanwhile, a side panel will explain how GDA works and a third of the pack's back will be devoted to a healthy lifestyle. The new packs will be in shops by the end of the month.

Official GDA figures, as devised by the Institute of Grocery Distribution in 1998, only cover calories and fat, yet Kellogg will also use figures for sugars, salt and saturated fat compiled from other medical sources.

Alyson Greenhalgh-Ball, Kellogg health and wellbeing manager, claimed the company had consumer support for its new system. "We have conducted extensive consumer research on various types of nutritional information. The GDA nutrition counter we've adopted proved engaging as well as the clearest and most accurate way of providing consumers with the information they want."

But the government's Food Standards Agency (FSA) refused to give its support for the scheme. It said in a statement that with more and more retailers developing their own form of signposting, "the situation could lead to confusion for consumers. That is why we are looking at developing a scheme which would be consistent across all retailers."

The system of using guideline daily amounts does differ from others already put in place by major retailers, such as Sainsbury's traffic light wheel and the Co-op's method of labelling salt, fat and calorie content as high, medium or low.

The FSA said it planned to hold a final consultation with the food industry and retailers, in addition to ongoing consumer research, in May this year before adopting recommendations on its labelling system of choice.

An FSA spokesperson said that companies were unlikely to be compelled by law to follow its recommendations, yet many might feel under pressure to conform when those recommendations were made public.

But the UK Food and Drink Federation, which counts Kellogg as a member, is keen to show consumers it is reacting quickly to health concerns.

Deputy director general Martin Paterson said Kellogg's initiative was concrete evidence that FDF members were fulfilling commitments outlined in their joint Food and Health manifesto given to the government last September.

"We are encouraging members to provide three things on packs where practicable - Guideline Daily Amounts, full nutritional information and salt equivalence as well as sodium,"​ said Paterson, who believes GDA will make it "increasingly easy for consumers to see how each food contributes to their overall diet"​.

A government policy paper on public health released last November called for clearer labelling of sugar, fat and salt content on many foods by the middle of 2005.

One option being considered by the government is a form of 'traffic light' labelling based on the idea of marking unhealthy foods in red, nutritious yet high fat foods, such as cheese, with in orange and healthy choices in green.

The FDF told that it thought traffic light labelling would merely be an unworkable gimmick. The federation said it much preferred GDA because it put products into context for consumers.

The guideline daily amount values which will appear on Kellogg's packs will be: Calories 200, Fat 70g, Saturated Fat 20g, Salt 6g, Total Sugars 100g, Fibre 24g, Calcium 800mg, Iron 14mg.

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