Nutrition labelling: 85% penetration across Europe, finds EU study
Brussels, 30 April 2009 – today the EU project FLABEL (Food Labelling to Advance Better Education for Life, www.flabel.org/) announces its first research results. An audit of the penetration of nutrition information recorded data from more than 37,000 products from 5 food and beverage product categories in retailers across the EU 27 Member States and Turkey.
On average 85% of the products audited contained nutrition information on the back of pack, ranging from 70% for Cyprus and Slovenia to more than 95% for Ireland, UK and The Netherlands. Front-of-pack nutrition information was found on average on 48% of all products, reaching as high as 82% in the UK.
By far the most wide-spread format across all countries was the tabular or linear listing of nutrient composition on the back of packs, stating either the big 4 (calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat) or the big 8 (big 4 plus sugar, saturated fat, fibre and sodium).
Overall, breakfast cereals was the category with the highest penetration of nutrition information, displaying nutrition information back of pack on 94% of products and front of pack on 70% of products.
Nutrition claims were on average on 25% of the products audited, ranging from 12% in Estonia to 37% in Ireland and Portugal. Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) were on average on 25% of products, ranging from 2% in Turkey to 63% in the UK. Nutrition claims and GDAs were the most prevalent forms of nutrition information on the front-of-pack.
In each country, the audits were conducted in three types of retail store: a retailer within the top 5 in terms of market share, a consumer cooperative or national retailer and a discounter.
More than 50 different retail stores co-operated with the study. All products within the following categories were examined: sweet biscuits, breakfast cereals, ready meals, carbonated soft drinks and yoghurts. A data collection grid was designed to record where nutrition information occurred on the pack (back-of-pack vs. elsewhere), in which format it was given (e.g.nutrition table), which nutrients were stated and whether nutrition or health claims were present.
Nutrition labelling, whilst voluntary in Europe except when a nutrition or health claim is made, was found on a large majority of products audited and its presence seems higher than reported previously. These findings provide a solid base for subsequent FLABEL studies involving attention, reading, liking, understanding and use by consumers of different nutrition labelling formats.
FLABEL receives research funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (Contract n° 211905). Its objective is to understand how nutrition information on food labels affects dietary choices and consumer habits. This project commenced August 2008, and will end in July 2011.