Food labelling a sign of the times?

So the UK is going to introduce food labelling in 2013. The news has been welcomed by food campaigners, consumer activists and many nutritionists.

After years of stalling and obstruction, food retailers have swung in behind the process. It was during the consultation on the new labelling regime, which has been announced today by the Department of Health, that Tesco declared their support for a hybrid system of traffic lights and guideline daily amounts (GDAs).

The system will also include the use of the words low, medium and high in connection with fat, saturated fats, sugar, salt and calories alongside the traffic lights and GDAs.

Judging by the fact that everyone seems to be taking credit for it, we can conclude this policy initiative is deemed a success – failure being an orphan and all. But what will constitute a real success will be a noticeable change in consumer behaviour and in the instances of obesity and other ailments linked to poor nutrition decisions. That will take a long time to show up of course.

The Government is reported to have been doing much of the arm-twisting that has encouraged recalcitrant retailers to the table. Interesting that the government of the day seems willing to push this idea through now when it has been around for the last ten years. Is it about seeking to reduce the £5 billion annual costs for the NHS in treating obesity and related illnesses? Or perhaps it is more about politics than prudence. Maybe this new-found enthusiasm is a sign that the government recognises that the electorate expects them to do more to encourage ‘responsible capitalism’?

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