Mette Kahlin: Greater clarity of labelling will stop consumers being misled

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The Independent Online

The vote on new food information regulations in the European Parliament tomorrow will affect us all because any agreement will have to be translated into UK law. Several critical issues that Which? has campaigned on for years are included.

First, this is a great opportunity to clarify origin and meat labelling.

MEPs are voting on how far origin labelling should be required, and the legislation should mean an end to misleading labelling.

If the main ingredients are from somewhere different to where the final product is made, this information would have to be available to customers on the packaging ("produced in the UK with Danish pork", for example), something which is only voluntary at the moment.

Our research shows that consumers want to know where their food is from. Eight in 10 people think it is important that the country of origin is labelled on meat and poultry, while around three quarters believe it is important for fruit and vegetables, dairy products and fish.

Second, the many forms of nutrition labelling make it difficult to compare products or make an informed choice.

The legislation will determine what has to be shown on the front and back of packs.

The most comprehensive research to date shows that the scheme which works best for consumers includes a combination of traffic light colours, the words "high", "medium" or "low", and the percentage guideline daily amounts (GDAs).

Which? is therefore urging the European Parliament to support this approach.

Another area of concern is the use of "nutrient profiles", which relates to how healthy a product has to be before a company can make claims about its health benefits.

Separate legislation already exists which requires such claims to be independently assessed as well as nutrient profiles to be established to set out how much fat, sugar and salt foods can contain before they can be marketed as having nutritional benefits.

The new legislation could change this as some MEPs want to leave manufacturers free to promote foods, such as chocolate, which we are normally advised to consume in moderation, as being "healthy".

It is important that this measure is maintained so that consumers can't be misled.

This is a crucial vote because it will determine what information we see in supermarkets. It is essential that the MEPs voting on Wednesday support what works best for consumers.

Mette Kahlin is a senior advocacy adviser for Which?