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Sainsbury's urges adoption of universal food labelling


Sainsbury’s CEO called on the food industry to move to universal front of pack nutritional labelling combining multiple traffic lights (MTLs) and Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs).

In a press release, Justin King, head of Sainsbury's, speaking at the industry's Annual IGD Convention, announced Sainsbury's will be making a decisive move designed to encourage both food retailers and manufacturers to put aside their differences on food labelling, with the aim of making it easier for customers to make informed choices about the food they buy.

"Sainsbury's has always championed simple, clear nutritional labelling. Seven years ago, we were the first to use traffic lights which are based on Guideline Daily Amounts on front of pack. Over 9,000 Sainsbury's lines now carry our unique and much loved 'Wheel of Health' multiple traffic light labelling. Years of research show customers prefer a combination of red, amber, green traffic light colour-coding, combined with GDAs. Now we are calling for the industry to put aside their differences and work together and align behind a common format," said King.

He noted that impending EU regulatory packaging changes mean all food retailers and manufacturers will need to change a number of aspects of their labelling anyway.

The Department of Health is currently working on exactly what this means for the UK food industry, but King said it will lead to a period of significant packaging change. "It's a once in a generation opportunity to give customers a unified approach that makes it easier for them to make healthier eating choices."

He said that Sainsbury's is committing to introduce a new tabular format of colour-coded nutritional labelling as part of that change and called on other manufacturers and retailers to do the same to ensure a consistent, combined approach.

"We're also calling for an end to the use of any other colours which confuse consumers. There can be no justification in customer terms for continued use of any colours except multiple traffic lights."

Sainsbury's was the first U.K. retailer to apply front of pack MTL labelling in January 2005 and is the most extensive adopter of Multiple Traffic Lights in the U.K., with labels on around 9,000 Sainsbury's own brand products.

It is anticipated that the Department of Health will provide clear guidance on the implications of EU legislation for the U.K. food industry in early to mid 2013 allowing the new label to start to appear on Sainsbury's products by 2014.

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