A £4m campaign to promote GDA labels, which show the guideline daily amounts of sugar, salt, fat and calories in each serving, will be launched on Monday by some of the UK’s largest food manufacturers. This action has reignited the debate over food labelling, but food law experts at Eversheds LLP say that experimenting with more than one system could benefit both the industry and consumers in the long term.
Owen Warnock, partner and food law specialist at international law firm Eversheds LLP, comments on the future for food labelling:
“The traffic light system of labelling was met with significant opposition from sectors of the industry when it was announced, so it comes as no surprise that a number of retailers and manufacturers are promoting the GDA front-of-pack labelling as an alternative to the FSA’s preferred system. However, it is unusual to see such a large segment of the food industry defying the FSA’s stance.
“Some cynics suggest that food businesses are opposing the traffic light system in order to protect their sales of less ‘healthy foods’ but, from our experience of working with the food industry, I am convinced the concerns are genuine on both sides of the debate.
“Legislation to support the FSA’s traffic light approach is unlikely in the short term unless the government tried to rely on its residual powers to protect public health. This is because the power to legislate in relation to food labelling rests with the European Union. Eventually we will see a pan-European law on front-of-pack nutrition labelling, but not for several years. When the time comes, one of the many factors which will influence the outcome will be the different voluntary systems of labelling in use in the UK and other countries.”
“It will be interesting to see if one of the two rival systems being promoted in the UK becomes dominant. However, many health campaigners are particularly worried that having two parallel systems will be the worst of all worlds – although in my view experimenting with both will help to find out which is the most beneficial for consumers and the industry in the long term.”