Expert comment – Stop or go? Are traffic lights nudging the food industry to develop healthier products

Dr Diogo M. de Souza Monteiro (PhD in Resource Economics) is a Lecturer in Food Economics and Marketing at Kent Business School, University of Kent and comments on the following news item: Food labelling: Consistent system ‘to start next year’

In a recent announcement, the Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said stated that the UK will launch a single voluntary front of pack food nutrition label in 2013. This new system of nutrition labeling will combine guideline daily amounts, colour coding and text to inform consumers about the fat, salt, sugar and calorie content of their food. In a recent paper published in the European Review of Agricultural Economics we investigated the extent to which front of pack nutrition labels are associated with an increase in the proportion of healthier foods looking at the introduction of new product introductions. Our findings suggest that front of pack labels alone don’t create a strong enough incentive for firms to bring healthier products to market. However, when combined with specific targets for the maximum amount of nutrients, they can create a strong incentive for firms to deliver better products. Thus the policy announcement is a step in the right direction, but may have to be combined with other policy such as a focus on specific food categories or education campaigns to have clear effects.

Earlier related expert comments:
‘Traffic-lights’ and the marketing of nutrition

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