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EDA considers UK front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme as inadequate and misleading

The European Dairy Association (EDA) is concerned about the recently launched UK front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme.

This system combines colourcoding with percentage reference intakes of the mandatory nutrients required by the Food Information to consumers Regulation (FIR). EDA believes this national scheme is inadequate, because it is in contrast with the EU’s aim to harmonize food information to consumers. Its use of color coding is misleading because it doesn’t recognize the nutritional contribution of whole foods and their role in diets.

Earlier this month the UK Department of Health launched a new front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme. EDA raises two main concerns.

Firstly, whilst the FIR provides the possibility for additional forms of expression and presentation of the nutrition declaration, EDA believes that creating a national scheme runs against Europe’s intention to harmonize food information to consumers. The UK approach is therefore not only a threat to Europe’s objective of creating a single market, but may also lead to the occurrence of trade barriers and obstacles hindering the free movement of goods.

The second concern of EDA is linked to the introduction of colour-coding indicating the content of fats, saturated fats, sugars and salt. The focus on the judgment of single nutrients is misleading because it ignores the nutritional contribution whole foods bring to a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that using a single nutrient as the basis for formulating a judgment on the nutritional value of food products is erroneous.

The overall composition of foods and their combination in the diet is what makes the difference. Moreover, the UK scheme is not in line with the principle of providing “objective and non-discriminatory” food information required by the FIR because the introduction of colour-coding is a non-objective judgment on the product that will obviously discriminate foods, such as dairy products.

Joop Kleibeuker, Secretary-General of EDA, concludes: ‘EDA underlines once more the importance of a varied and balanced diet, together with regular physical activity. As EDA believes the UK scheme will mislead consumers to judge red-labelled foods as ‘to be avoided’, we highly question the effectiveness of the proposed UK scheme to ensure well informed consumer choices’.

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