A holistic and consistent approach to front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labelling, supported by consumer education, is needed to encourage healthier food choices, according to the European Food Information Council (EUFIC).

During a presentation at the 2013 International Congress of Nutrition in September, EUFIC’s Director of Nutrition and Health, Dr Laura Fernandez EUFIC highlighted that “consistent positioning and label format” and a “broad penetration of FOP nutrition information” is needed to increase the effectiveness of nutrition labelling.

Dr Fernandez highlighted that this will help increase consumers’ attention and familiarity to a particular system, which will in turn encourage them to use nutrition information to make healthier food choices.

FIA Chief Scientific Officer, Kim Leighton, agreed that a consistent approach in the implementation of nutrition labelling will be effective in encouraging healthier lifestyles across Asia.

“FOP labelling schemes are being implemented across the region with the industry working collaboratively with regulators in many countries to promote healthier eating habits. There’s no doubt that this information helps people to understand how their food choices will impact their overall diet – a critical first step to support healthier lifestyles,” he said.

Mr Leighton also highlighted that the FOP Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) approach is an effective way to inform consumers about their food choices, and that many countries in the region are already recognising the value of the system, especially when coupled with a coordinated education campaign.

“FOP GDA labels for key nutrients such as calories provide a more balanced perspective of a food’s nutritional value per serve. This system highlights that the percentage contribution an average person’s daily intake, giving them a better understanding of how products should be consumed within a balanced diet and lifestyle.

“It is encouraging to see Governments and regulators in Asia increasingly adopting FOP GDA labelling as an effective way to encourage healthier food choices. In many countries, they are working collaboratively with the industry on implementing voluntary FOP GDA labelling schemes.

“Earlier this year, both Malaysia and the Philippines announced the introduction of voluntary FOP GDA labelling to encourage healthier food choices, and Thailand introduced this labelling scheme back in 2011,” he said.

In the EUFIC presentation, Dr Fernandez also highlighted that there is a need to “see nutrition labelling in a broader context” and that the “broad penetration of front-of-pack nutrition information is desirable”. The research noted that consumers’ “familiarity” to a particular nutrition labelling format is also important in ensuring the effectiveness the label.

Mr Leighton said this reinforced how critical it is for FOP GDA labelling schemes to be accompanied by comprehensive consumer education programmes, to motivate consumers to use the information on pack and encourage healthier choices.

“This is another key area where Governments and industry have been working together in Asia. The Philippines have recently carried out consumer education initiatives in conjunction with the roll out of their FOP GDA labelling scheme and Thailand’s FDA team up with food companies to fund a compelling consumer road show to explain GDA labelling in 2012.

“Tackling the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity in Asia, and around the world, is a complex challenge that requires holistic, science-based solutions. FOP GDA labelling schemes are proving to be a valuable tool to help people understand more about the nutritional value of the foods that they’re eating. However, the introduction of these systems must be accompanied with multi-faceted and multi-stakeholder programmes that encourage greater nutrition literacy and physical activity if we’re really going to move the dial on healthy eating and healthy living,” he said.

FIA issues a fortnightly e-bulletin with analysis on relevant food and beverage industry issues across the region. To subscribe to this service, please click here.