Packaging Innovation
food labelling fails
June 2, 2017

Food labelling: consumers long for more clarity and compliance

Consumers are increasingly aware of what they eat, attaching more and more importance to food safety and nutrition benefits. Meanwhile, despite (or due to?) the many rules and guidelines in place, manufacturers still fall short when it comes to food labelling.

Care for some ‘light’ misleading?

Food labels these days are often found to be ambiguous. In a bid to get the most out of the consumer’s taste for dieting and healthy eating, food manufacturers are not afraid to get creative. While the term ‘low fat’, for instance, is reserved by law for products that do not contain more than 3 percent of fat, there are no rules when it comes to the term ‘light’. Consequently, as was recently discovered by the Consumers’ Association, foods which are branded as light can contain up to 21 percent of fat.

No green light yet for traffic light food labelling

Although applauded by public health campaigners for their easy interpretability, color-coded food labels (also known as traffic light labels) are bound to add to consumer confusion as well due to the lack of a uniform food labelling scheme across Europe. Food companies including Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Mars are planning to base their traffic light labels not on a 100 g/ml basis but on portion size, which of course varies from manufacturer.

Trying too hard

Ironically enough, many food manufacturers fall short because they are trying to be too safe about their labels. Next to declaring energy value, fat levels and the amount of saturates, carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and salt, food labels must also mention the presence, or potential presence, of allergens including nuts, milk, gluten, soya and wheat. Just to be on the safe side, many manufacturers unnecessarily use ‘may contain allergens X, Y, Z, …’ on their labels to such a degree that the phrase is slowly but surely losing its meaning.   Inspired by CMS Law-Now