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Diet and health debate

Diet and health issues were back in the media in recent weeks as the government announced a consultation on a common system for health labelling on the front of food packaging. The Centre for Food Policy recommended the introduction of a tax on ‘unhealthy’ foods and a parallel subsidy on fruit and vegetables. Which? published a report showing that many pre-packed sandwiches had very high levels of fat and salt.

The Department of Health announced a three month consultation on proposals for the food industry to adopt a ‘common’ system for health labelling on front of pack – indicating levels of fat, sugar and salt as well as calorie content of pre-packed foods.

Although it is recognised that around 80% of pre-packed food already carry nutritional information, there are many different systems in use. The consultation will inevitably resurrect the debate on whether ‘traffic lights’ or ‘guideline daily amounts’ (GDAs) are the most helpful and meaningful way of presenting this information. The announcement was widely covered in the national and trade press:

Independent     Daily Mail     Grocer

The Centre for Food Policy published a report suggesting that putting a 20% tax on sugary drinks and other ‘unhealthy’ foods, while at the same promoting fruit and vegetables, could save 2,700 deaths from heart attacks every year.

Independent     Mirror Food     Navigator

The study referred to the ‘fat tax’ which was introduced in Denmark in October 2011 and applied to all foods with a saturated fat content above 2.3%. In the opinion of the food and farming industry, the tax is regarded as an irrelevant administrative burden as the costs of collecting the tax are borne by processors and importers. It is viewed more as a means of raising tax revenues than a considered measure to improve public health.

The Consumer Association published a report showing a huge variety in the fat and salt content of pre-packed sandwiches sold in supermarkets.

Sun     Daily Telegraph

The publication of the report miraculously coincided with British Sandwich Week during which the sandwich industry celebrated the 250th year anniversary of this great British institution.