Food expert warns manufacturers will invite suspicion by avoiding labelling scheme

24 June 2013 (Last Updated June 24th, 2013 18:30)

Food expert Ralph Early has warned manufacturers planning to opt out of the UK Government's new traffic light food labelling system that they will risk a backlash from consumers.

Ralph Early

Food expert Ralph Early has warned manufacturers planning to opt out of the UK Government's new traffic light food labelling system that they will risk a backlash from consumers.

The Harper Adams University food science and agri-food supply chain management department head believes that manufacturers could be accused of intending to prevent consumers from knowing facts about products of direct relevance to their health and well-being.

A revised traffic light system of consistent front of pack information on grocery food products announced by the government last week is set to be introduced over the next 18 months.

The system will contain nutrition information along with colour coding in a visible and understandable form. The plan is to allow consumers to make judgements about the energy and nutrient values of products at a glance.

Early said that one of the critical functions of food product labels is to create a bond of trust between consumers and those who make and sell food products.

"To refuse the use of the new traffic light food labelling system to help consumers know how much fat, sugar, salt and energy a food product contains risks interpretation that there is something to hide," he said.

Food product labels inform consumers about the product and allow purchasers to gain knowledge on who takes responsibility for a product and who guarantees it.

"One of the critical functions of food product labels is to create a bond of trust between consumers and those who make and sell food products."

The labels are essential to the process established by food manufacturers and retailers for attracting and retaining customers.

Not all food businesses have signed up to the traffic light food labelling system, according to Early.

A number of those who have stated that they will not adopt the system said that they believe the display of daily guideline amounts will be more helpful to moderate consumption for consumers.

"Given the power of instant electronic communication, the media and the message today, it takes a brave chief executive to assume a position where the food business for which they are responsible appears wilfully to be withholding information of value to the health and well-being of consumers," Early concluded.


Image: Harper Adams University Food Science and Agri-Food Supply Chain Management Department head Ralph Early. Photo: courtesy of Harper Adams University.