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Signpost labelling: find out more - (Food Standards Agency)

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 05:06 PM

Signposting is intended to be a way of making it easier for people to choose a healthy diet.

It is a system of front of pack labelling for foods providing ‘at a glance' information about the nutritional content of foods.

It is one of a number of ways of making it easier for consumers to choose a healthy diet being considered by the Agency.

Q and A What system of signposting is the Agency recommending?

The Agency is considering proposing a ‘multiple traffic lights' format for use on certain processed pre-packed foods such as ready meals, breakfast cereals, pizzas, pies and sausages.

These foods are eaten frequently or in large amounts and are also those that people find most difficult to assess nutritionally.

This voluntary scheme for the food industry would provide consumers with ‘at a glance' colour-coded information on the levels of total fats, saturated fat, sugars and salt in a product. See the link at the end of this page to 'Traffic light labelling visuals' for a sample of the multiple traffic lights format.

Q and A Why are you considering recommending multiple traffic lights?

The Agency has commissioned consumer research to explore how easy it is for consumers to use a range of options for signpost labelling and to discover which format consumers prefer.

In the latest research, published in November 2005, multiple traffic lights were well liked and consumers reported that they found them easy to use and to understand. On the basis of these research findings, multiple traffic lights is considered to be the format most likely to help consumers make healthier food choices quickly, easily and accurately.

Q and A What is happening next?

Currently the Agency is consulting with consumers and the food industry on the multiple traffic lights scheme. This consultation closes on 8 February 2006. The findings will then be analysed and a recommendation put to the Food Standards Agency's Board for agreement. The scheme will be launched following agreement by the Board.

Q and A What is the most recent research the Agency has published?

The latest research, published in November 2005, is based on interviews with more than 2,600 consumers from across the UK. The research looked at which type of signposting was most effective in helping people assess the nutrient content of food quickly and easily, both when looking at a product on its own, and when comparing products.

The research also examined attitudes to signposting, including which format of signposting people prefer and why.
Further focus group research looked at possible improvements to the two formats that had performed best in previous research - the multiple traffic lights and colour-coded guideline daily amount, and also investigated how to apply a signposting scheme in practice.

Q and A What is the background to the latest research on signposting?

The Agency commissioned a programme of research to help develop a system of front of pack signpost labelling that consumers can use quickly and correctly to help them make healthier food choices when shopping.

In November 2004, a first phase of research was published. This demonstrated strong approval and support for the idea of front-of-pack signpost labelling, which people felt would make it easier to assess the nutritional content of foods and make healthier choices.

This research identified two concepts as particularly promising. One was a ‘simple traffic light system', which combined the main nutrients into a single measure and might be depicted as red (for less healthy choice), amber (for ok choice) or green (healthier choice). The other was a ‘multiple traffic lights' concept, which showed separate information for the total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content.
The Agency then commissioned research to test these concepts in more detail, together with two concepts based on guideline daily amount (GDA) information. The Agency enlisted the support of a ‘signpost working group' (which included representatives from three retailers, two manufacturers and a consumer group) to help plan this research.

To ensure that the two GDA-based formats included in the research would be as clear as possible, the Agency commissioned qualitative consumer research to examine those elements from a range of five GDA-based options that consumers find most useful. The research, which was published in March 2005, tested formats with and without colour coding, and with simple bar charts, to establish which of them consumers found most useful.


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