Which? calls for clearer product labels for food

31st August 2010 - Fine Cut

The consumer advocacy group, Which? has called for food brands to make sure that their product labels are as clear as possible.

According to the self-termed "consumer champion", a survey of 1,023 adults has found that many consumers are being misled by the wording of product labels and packaging on food products. For example, nearly a third of those surveyed believed that the use of "real fruit" as a phrase on a product meant that fruit was the main ingredient, whilst 43% thought that "juice drink" implied that the product was at least 25% fruit juice.

However one example given by Which? - a passion juice drink sold across the UK - was just 5% juice concentrate and had a larger proportional amount of sugar as an ingredient. However because the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) guidance is simply a code of good practice rather than a matter of regulation, with only a few terms reserved for specific criteria, the product is labelled a "real fruit juice drink" despite its low fruit content.

"We support the Food Standard's Agency's labelling guidance for food manufacturers, but our research shows that there is confusion about what some of the words used on food labels actually mean," said Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?. He says that it is "essential" that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - who have now taken responsibility for labelling issues from the FSA - "remains consumer focused...ensuring that the words used on food labels are clear so that consumers know what they're getting."

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