Do you find yourself purchasing food items labelled “low calorie” or “low fat” in the hopes that they may be more nutritious or healthier for you? Well, you may be correct, and you may also be incorrect.
A study by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, undertaken to determine the accuracy of the health and nutrition claims of ready-to-eat snack food products, found that although many ready-to-eat snacks were compliant with the current legislation, 25.3% of labelled nutrient content claims were non-compliant with the South African Food Labelling Regulations R146 legislation, with 68.8% of food items displaying a higher total energy content and only 23.7% of products in the study being eligible to make health or nutritional claims in line with the upcoming R429 legislation.
This begs the question: how accurate are our food labels? If you have questions about today’s food labels, you are not alone. So what can actually help us choose healthier foods?
MAKING INFORMED CHOICES
Governments and consumer organisations around the world see providing transparent and fact-based nutrition information as the key to helping consumers make better food choices. In response to the industry’s compliance with current legislation, Unilever has taken measures to ensure its products are accurately and properly labelled, advertised and communicated. The aim is to ensure that claims are: transparent, truthful, not misleading and meaningful in order to help consumers make informed choices.
Accurate health claims are essential in building consumer trust. That’s why we at Unilever have taken a global position for making nutrition and health claims on our foods and refreshments. The intention of our claims is to provide people with product nutrition information to help them make healthier choices. This applies to health claims made on-pack and through other marketing channels.
We believe that simplified nutritional labelling is the key to helping consumers make improved food choices. To achieve this, we abide by the following golden rules:
Our key principles for front-of-pack labelling schemes include:
With the growing need for government and the food industries to try and catch up with international efforts to ensure that what consumers see on food labels is in line with what they get, Unilever’s dual approach complements industry compliance by promoting nutritious diets, using the reach and power of their brands to empower people to make responsible food and refreshment choices, and to adopt healthier habits.
Bursey, A.S., Wiles, N.L. and Biggs, C. (2019). The nutrient quality and labelling of ready-to-eat snack foods with health and/or nutrition claims. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/16070658.2019.1682242.