Food Labelling can be quite confusing to grasp, it covers so many different areas and it can often being confusing without education or awareness. However, not many will have a clearer understanding than a food labelling expert. Nicola Malone, a legal food labelling expert and an independent food safety consultant of over 10 years, gave her view on the awareness of food labelling.
“There is no doubt that there is not enough awareness around food labelling. The general public are limited in their understanding and more education is required.”
Within schools in England, there is not a compulsory subject relating to Food and Nutrition. Many schools choose to include Design and Technology, but it is very rare for this to touch upon food labelling. Nicola believed to be able to spread the awareness that is needed, is to start education to children while at they are at school.
“To help spread awareness there needs to be more grass roots education from a young age to help with better understanding. I believe there should be mandatory lessons from primary school onwards to offer educational workshops to increase knowledge.”
Despite highlighting she thinks there isn’t enough awareness, the food labelling expert also stated that the problem is some care, and some don’t, and the issue lies by the fact that there isn’t an in between.
“Some people are very informed and understand it, but then most have zero interest in it and don’t even read or take note of it.”
Arguably one of the most important aspects of food labelling is nutrition. Most products now often use the traffic light system, which allows customers to see if a product is high or low in a certain nutrient. When it came to the nutritional aspect of food labelling, again Nicola thought education was key, but said if there was to be more explanation on food labels, that it would have a limited affect as many people simply don’t take notice of it.
“Consumers are not aware of recommended nutritional recommendations. We do need to be mindful that individual needs vary and what one person requires is different to another’s. In my opinion it is not the responsibility of the food labels to highlight this, the education is key. The food labelling helps apply the education. Additionally. The majority of people do not read food labels therefore including more detail on food labels would have a limited effect.”
On the other hand, Nicola did think that the allergen labelling works well on prepacked foods, which is food put into packaging before being placed on sale. But, says it still has its weakness at the moment, however stating this could soon change.
“I think allergen labelling works well on prepacked foods as most brands clearly indicate the allergens present. Currently prepacked for direct sale items do not require allergen labelling which can cause major issues. However, this will change in the near future due to new legislation which many people see as a step in the right direction.”
Brexit could also have a big impact on food labelling. With the UK currently in the transition period with the EU, if no trade deal is secured, the responsibility of monitoring food labels completely falls down to the Food Standards Agency. Nicola explained the many different areas of food labelling that would be affected by the UK no longer being in the EU.
“Brexit will definitely have an impact on food labelling as legislation will no longer be governed by Europe. In the short-term health marks will need to change as will country of origin declarations including the term ‘EU’. Primary ingredient legislation will also have an impact. As Brexit is relatively new and no trade agreements have been made at this time it is difficult to determine whether Brexit will have a positive or negative effect.”