Front-of-pack (FOP) food labelling is a hot topic in New Zealand at the moment, with new research from the University of Otago and University of Auckland showing that industry, policy-makers and NGOs think food labelling should be improved.
Researchers, led by the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health, interviewed 17 key stakeholders from the NZ food industry, policy-makers and NGOs about improving food labelling and investigated how FOP labelling may assist consumers make healthier choices. The results of the study were published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.
“Research has already shown that shoppers find the current labelling systems on the back of food products complicated and hard to understand,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Louise Signal.
“This is especially so for low-income, Maori and Pacific people. This suggests labels on the front of packs are needed that simply and clearly indicate the nutritional and health value of food, such as traffic light labels.”
The study found that there was a lack of agreement across the groups as to the best labelling format to use. Non-industry groups thought the decision should be based on evidence and public health impact, while industry participants were generally opposed to a mandatory, rather than voluntary, system.
“Agreement between key stakeholders isn’t going to be easy with the bottom line profit motivation of the food industry contrasting with the public health goals of improved nutrition and health,” says Associate Professor Signal.
“However, it’s not impossible to achieve, and this study clearly shows the need for more government leadership in advancing discussions in this critical area. There’s also a need for robust evidence-based research on the health and consumer impacts of FOP labelling, which participants supported.”