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Action on Salt

Nutrition labelling

In 2013, Government asked food and drink manufacturers to add colour-coded front of pack nutrition labelling to products available in supermarkets and smaller retail stores. This is a voluntary policy but Government estimate that around 2 in 3 packaged food and drink products now display these labels.  

In Chapter 1 of their Childhood Obesity Plan, the Government promised to make nutrition labelling clearer, and in Chapter 2 they promised to review the UK’s labelling system following our exit from the European Union. Until now, the UK’s front of pack labelling – the so-called ‘traffic light’ labels which have red (high), amber (medium) or green (low) labels for total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt - has been voluntary as the EU does not allow any country to make front of pack labels mandatory but now that we have left the EU, we have the opportunity to make our front of pack nutrition labelling mandatory across all products or even change the type of labelling in place. In 2020, the Government released an initial consultation to gather views on our current labelling system. We are still awaiting the outcome of this.  

The Government also committed in Chapter 2 to making calorie labelling in the out of home sector (e.g. restaurants, cafes) mandatory. They recommitted to this in their Tackling Obesity strategy and in May 2021, the Queen’s Speech (where Government announce their legislative priorities for the coming year) revealed that the Government would go ahead with mandating calorie labelling in the out of home sector, for all businesses with more than 250 employees. This means that only 2% of all businesses in the sector will have to display the labels, but this small percentage of businesses make up 50% of all sales in the sector.  

 See our input to Government’s consultations on proposed nutrition labelling:  

How can nutrition labelling impact reformulation? 

If the traffic light labels were made mandatory across all products, this means that food and drink companies would have to tell all of their customers if their product is high in total fat, saturated fat, sugar and/or salt with a red label on the front of packaging. Many companies do not like having red labels on their products and so nutrition labelling would encourage all companies to alter levels of the unhealthy elements of their products. 

Similarly, calorie labelling in the out of home sector would mean that all large, well-resourced businesses would have to tell their consumers what is in the dishes they sell. This could encourage them to rethink their recipes to contain less excess calories, resulting in healthier options for all customers. . 

Does Action on Salt support the Government’s proposals? 

  1.  We have long supported colour-coded front of pack nutrition labels and we strongly support making these mandatory across all products so that consumers can tell at a glance what is in their food. 

We also support calorie labelling in the out of home sector, but only as a first step. Instead of just calories, we support full, traffic light nutrition labelling with fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt stated too in the out of home sector, just as we would see in a supermarket. Our surveys have shown how high levels of sugar in the out of home sector can be. Full nutrition information could encourage businesses to reduce this and make their dishes healthier.  


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