In June 2013, following a consultation and a period of discussion with stakeholders, the Department of Health (DH) launched a new front of pack (FoP) nutrition label format combining red, amber and green colour-coding, nutritional information and percentage reference intakes (RIs, formerly known as Guideline Daily Amounts) to display the amount of energy, fat, saturates, sugars and salt in food and drink products. This new label is compliant with the UK Health Ministers’ Recommendation on the use of colour coding and with EU Regulation No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (EU FIC) and aims to provide a more consistent format for UK consumers. It replaces the previous traffic light labelling system, which allowed retailers and manufacturers to present the nutritional information in a variety of formats using colour-coding and percentage Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) of nutrients. The provision of this new FoP label will remain voluntary. However, manufacturers and retailers are encouraged to provide this information on as many products as possible to encourage consumers to notice and become familiar with FoP labelling. Manufacturers and retailers that commit to using the new FoP label must comply with the requirements set out in the EU FIC. Where FoP information is provided this must be given in addition to the mandatory back of pack nutrition labelling (listing energy, protein, fat, saturates, carbohydrates, sugars and salt) and not alone.
To support businesses with developing and using the new FoP label, DH have produced a ‘Guide to creating a front of pack (FoP) nutrition label for pre-packed products sold through retail outlets’. This document outlines the criteria and compulsory information that must be included on the label. These requirements are outlined below:
In line with the EU FIC, the DH guidance states that the label can take one of two formats:
1. Energy value alone – to be provided as either:
a) per 100g/ml
b) per 100g/ml and per portion
2. Energy plus fat, saturates, sugars and salt (“energy + 4”) to be provided per specified portion of the product. In this case the energy content per 100g/ml must also be provided.
Companies are encouraged to use option 2 wherever possible; however for some products (e.g. individual items within a multipack and small products with limited label space such as condiment jars, yoghurt pots and canned fish) then option 1 may be more appropriate.
The details of the FoP label format are as follows:
- Information on the energy value must be expressed in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal).
- The percentage reference intake (% RI – equivalent to current GDAs) should be displayed for the energy and nutrient values per 100g/ml or per portion of the product.
- If companies choose to provide the % RI for energy per 100g/ml the RI for energy of an average adult must also be stated as a statutory requirement as follows ‘Reference intake of an average adult (8400kJ/2000kcal)’.
- If the %RI for energy per 100g/ml is not displayed companies must still use similar wording to inform consumers about the meaning of percentages, such as “of the reference intake”, “of your reference intake” or “of an adult’s reference intake”.
- Nutrients (excluding energy) should be colour coded as red, amber or green based on criteria determined for 100g food or 100ml drink. If a portion size is greater than 100g or 150ml and contributes more than 30% or 15% towards an adult’s maximum daily nutrient intake for food and drink respectively then the red colour coding should be applied.
- Companies have the option to use the words ‘High’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Low’ (HML) together with red, amber and green colour coding respectively to reinforce their meaning, however this is not compulsory.
- Portion size should be expressed in a way that is both identifiable and meaningful to the consumer e.g. ¼ of a pie or 1 burger rather than ‘per serving’.
The nutrition information will be presented on the FoP label in a series of lozenges as illustrated in the example below. In contrast to some previous colour-coded formats, colour coding will not be applied to energy and so this lozenge on the label will not be coloured. Also, due to changes in the criteria for ‘high’ salt per portion, some products that would previously have been coded amber will now be red for salt.
Example FoP nutrition label displaying portion size, energy and nutrient values per portion of the product, % RIs and colour coding:
The DH guidance document provides a step-by-step guide to creating a FoP label, including how to calculate the nutrient values and percentage reference intakes (% RI) and determine the appropriate colour coding for food and drink products, with examples illustrated throughout each stage. The document also describes additional criteria that may be applicable, for example, when labelling products with multiple components (e.g. selections packs of cakes and biscuits), making health claims and when determining colour coding for food products sold in portion sizes greater than 100g and drinks sold in portions over 150ml. In addition, recommendations are made about the presentation of the FoP label, including the format, design and display of nutrients and RIs, as advised by the British Retail Consortium and in line with the EU FIC.
The new labelling scheme was introduced following research showing that consumers are often bemused by the number of different nutrition labels displayed on food and drink packaging. The new guidance is designed to enable manufacturers and retailers to develop a consistent label that increases consumers’ awareness about the nutrient content of the food they are eating. DH states that the new label will make it easier for consumers to compare similar foods in terms of their nutritional value and help them to make better informed and healthier choices. Two new pledges have been developed as part of the food network of the Public Health Responsibility Deal that food and drink companies can sign up to. These are:
• F7(a). We will adopt and implement the UK Governments’ 2013 recommended Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling Scheme.
• F7(b). We will promote and explain to consumers how to use the UK Governments’ 2013 recommended Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling Scheme.
All the major retailers as well as a number of large manufacturers have announced that they will be using the new label on their products.
The DH front of pack nutrition labelling guidance can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/front-of-pack-nutrition-labelling-guidance
The EU Food information for consumers regulation can be found here: ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/foodlabelling/proposed_legislation_en.htm