Food industry responding to labelling needs

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Products, United kingdom

The UK food industry has come out on top in two UK surveys
investigating whether manufacturers are meeting Country of Origin
and Clear Labelling guidance.

Out of more than 750 products examined by the Food Standard Agency (FSA) for clear labelling, only a few issues were identified.

The research even found that many manufacturers provided information that exceeded legal requirements and met the FSA's good practice guidance.

Particularly evident was how closely the guidance was followed on grouping of information, with 83 per cent of products conforming to the major aspects, and on the provision of nutrition information (89 per cent of products, with 80 per cent of these doing so voluntarily).

On clear and unambiguous date marks, 96 per cent of products passed.

The recommendations that were not widely followed however included that on font size (87 per cent of products). A large number of products were also found to have given undue emphasis to features such as brand information at the expense of essential information as specified by the agency's advice (71 per cent of products).

The findings of a similar survey on country of origin labelling also put the food industry in a good light. A total of 358 products were sampled, and most products were found to have volunteered an explicit declaration of origin or provided one in accordance with the law.

They were almost always conspicuous and easy to understand even when, as in the great majority of cases, they were given voluntarily.

Such direct statements normally referred to the country where the product has been produced or made, most commonly expressed as the 'UK'. References to specific parts of the UK, such as 'Northern Ireland' or 'Cornwall', were far less common.

The most common way that origin was implied, either intentionally or unintentionally, was in writing, but other ways such as flags, pictures, emblems, and references to assurance schemes were frequently seen. Only a small number of cases involved qualifications such as 'Italian Style'.

The Food Standards Agency's advice on interpretation of the legislation applied to relatively few products whose origin was implied. While most of these followed the advice by giving a distinct declaration of origin, a small minority provided this information in a small font on the back of the pack.

The report concludes that a review of the guidance might consider recommending certain forms for explicit statements, because these take a number of forms, and clarification where a 'packed in' statement is used. Clarification for Chinese, Indian and ethnic European dishes could also prove helpful.

Related topics: Ingredients

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