Britain’s obesity crisis – could Brexit be the key to rethinking food labelling?

Traffic light labelling on food, we’ve all seen them when we go shopping, but did you know that it is not mandatory for producers to use this system on their packaging and that only two-thirds of products on our supermarket shelves currently carry this kind of nutritional information.

According to the Local Government Association this is fuelling unhealthy eating habits and Britain’s obesity crisis. They propose that Brexit is the perfect time for the UK to standardise food labels, thus making nutritional information mandatory on all of the foods and drinks we consume. As it stands, the EU is in charge of regulating product labelling, but the UK government may choose to implement its own guidelines when the UK leaves the European Union.
In 2013 the Department of Health announced the traffic light labels designed to allow consumers to quickly see how much fat, saturates, sugars and salt are in a particular product, but this is only a voluntary system meaning manufacturers can ignore it.

This has been blamed for the obesity crisis gripping Britain because some manufacturers use the traffic light system and others use more complex schemes giving nutritional information in percentage guideline daily amounts (%GDA). This can cause confusion for consumers who may be unwittingly buying products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

The Faculty of Public Health has previously stated that the %GDAs labelling schemes can cause confusion and impede consumers from making healthy choices as it suggests that these daily amounts are targets to reach, whereas they are actually limits not to be exceeded.
Why is food labelling so important?

According to latest figures, almost two thirds of British adults and a third of children are overweight or obese and that figure could rise substantially unless precautions and information is provided.

The traffic light system adopted by a range of manufacturers is a great way for consumers to quickly see the amount of fat, saturates, sugars and salt is in a product and make an educated choice as to what to buy.
Clear nutrition labelling on the front of food packaging is an important way to educate the population and to help consumers make healthier food choices. The fact that some manufacturers choose a different nutrition system can make it confusing for consumers.

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