Labels confuse consumers, say watchdog

25th August 2010 - Fine Cut

The common words used by manufacturers on product labels are confusing consumers, watchdog Which? says.

Certain food and drink brands are marketing their products with words such as 'pure,' 'fresh,' 'natural' and 'real,' yet European law states food labels should not mislead consumers.

Which? surveyed 1,023 adults aged between 16 and 64 years, finding that a third of respondents thought that 'real fruit' meant fruit was the main ingredient in the product, whilst 43 per cent said they thought drinks labelled 'juice drink' contained a minimum of a quarter of fruit juice.

Although the Food Standards Agency has published a guide on how particular words and phrases are used to describe foods, it is a code of good practice and isn't legally binding.

Phrases such as 'fruit juice' and 'fruit juice from concentrate' must comply with European legislation but 'juice drink' does not, allowing drinks such as Rubicon's Sparkling Passion to use 'real fruit' and 'juice drink' on their label even though the product only contains 5 per cent of juice concentrate.

Another term confusing consumers is 'flavour' and 'flavoured' with Which? revealing many people mistakenly think the Strawberry flavour of yogurt drink Yop contains strawberries.

Peter Vicary-Smith chief executive of Which? told the Daily Mail: "We support the Food Standards 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."

"It's essential that Defra remains consumer-focused now that labelling issues fall under its remit, ensuring that the words used on food labels are clear so that consumers know that they're getting."

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