Baroness Parminter writes… Food labelling: a cautious welcome but much more to do

For many years, the Liberal Democrats have been calling for more consistent food labelling, most recently with our Autumn conference motion, ‘Good Food Shouldn’t Cost the Earth’.

That’s why I welcome the announcement that a new consistent system of ‘front of pack’ labelling will be up and running by summer 2013. It is a cautious welcome because the new system will be voluntary and the biggest challenge – getting all the food industry fully on board – still lies ahead. But, it is encouraging to see action at long last – and action by the Coalition Government when the previous Labour Government failed to act in this area.

Food is so important to public health and it is incumbent on government to encourage individuals to develop the knowledge and skills to make informed choices over healthy eating.

At the moment we have a variety of labelling systems in place and this can create confusion. The proposed new consistent labelling system will give a ‘high, medium or low” rating to describe the fat, salt and sugar contents which products contain. This sounds very familiar to our traffic light colour coding system which Liberal Democrats have proposed for a long time.

So, it’s a good start and it is news that we should welcome and, as Liberal Democrats, very much feel part of. Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians will do all we can to ensure that the food industry and retailers are encouraged as much as possible to adopt the new system and give consumers the knowledge they need to make informed, healthy food choices.

Baroness Kate Parminter is Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on Defra/Decc

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8 Comments

  • Alex Matthews 26th Oct '12 - 12:14pm

    This is fantastic news, and please let me say that it is a wonderfully written article.

  • Geoffrey Payne 26th Oct '12 - 12:36pm

    Given that the Tories were insisting that there would have to be a voluntary agreement, this was the best outcome. However we can see what happens next. Panorama investigations will reveal abuses of the code and there will be more pressure on the government to make the code compulsory. Voluntary agreements have a poor track record.

  • Peter Davies 26th Oct '12 - 1:34pm

    While welcoming consistent labelling, I do worry about a system that defines good food as food that doesn’t contain much of specific bad things. The supermarkets don’t currently label either fruit or beer. This is because much fruit would have two red segments (calories and sugar) while beer would have at most one amber . You could never buy a product with a red or amber segment and die of a hundred different different forms of malnutrition.

  • The traffic light labelling system has been invented by arrogant people who think the rest of us are too stupid to be given any actual facts. Liberal Democrats should have more respect for people.

  • Peter Davies 26th Oct '12 - 3:40pm

    Could I also make a plea not to rely on colour as the primary visual mechanism. I’m red-green colour-blind and this means that red doesn’t stand out as expected but the same effect can be achieved by clever packaging (Sainsbury’s pizza boxes are all reddish orange so the bad segments hardly show) or by warmer lighting. It would be far better to use a linear scale (e.g. a 1.-5 star rating).

  • Chris, I’m intrigued. How is the traffic light system not based on the facts?

  • Duncan Stott – I’m not intrigued so much as puzzled. In what way do you imagine any actual information is available through the traffic light system?

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