A desire to improve health and prevent disease through diet means that more and more European consumers are looking to the nutritional information given on food packages, but on the occasion of a World Health Organisation meeting this week to discuss strategies to improve global health, European consumer group BEUC calls on food manufacturers to come up with an easy to understand system of labelling for all EU member states.
"We want a simple, clear, understandable European system, which will enable consumers to easily identify the nutritional quality of products," said the Brussels-based group.
Good food labelling is an essential element in making informed food choices. Many European consumers care about their diet but are confused about the nutritional information given on food packages, they add.
For the consumer group, the adoption of Commission proposals - currently under discussion by member states - on nutrition and health claims and on the fortification of food is vital for transparency and clearer labels.
"Consumers need good nutritional information," said Jim Murray, BEUC director, "but they also need protection against health and nutritional claims that don't tell the whole story."
The commission is calling for clearer guidelines for health claims on food, which will see an end to labels declaring "90 per cent fat free" or "reduces your calorie intake." Instead, all health claims will have to be based on scientific evidence, and strict thresholds for all nutrition claims have been established.
For example, only food containing less than 3 grams of fat per 100 grams will henceforth be considered low fat, while the limit is 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams for a low sugar label.
Health commissioner David Byrne said earlier this year that this 'major overhaul of European food labelling' will put and end to 'claims that cannot be properly regulated.'