Food labelling review ignores design industry

The Food Standards Agency is not considering the opinion of designers on the matter of its new food-labelling guidelines, despite canvassing views from the Advertising Association.

The FSA confirms it has not sent a consultation paper on European Union-wide labelling policy to any design bodies, even though its consultation ends at the start of next month.

The paper concerns a European Commission document, ‘The proposal for a new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers’. Design-related issues in the paper include recommendations that the guideline daily amount and traffic-light schemes sit on strongly contrasting backgrounds and that associated text is printed at least 3mm high.

In addition, UK food manufacturers may have to make room on front-of-pack labels for two systems, if a proposal for national govern ments to implement their own nutrition labelling schemes is successful. Yet the FSA denies design is a stakeholder in the issue. ‘This is not a design concern, as it is primarily about wording,’ says an FSA spokesman. ‘Retailers and man ufacturers are being consulted. If they want to discuss issues with designers, they are entitled to do so.’ Mark Frost, creative director of BR&Me, the consultancy behind Sainsbury’s ‘Wheel of health’ nutrition information system, believes the proposal will have a significant impact on the appearance of food labels.

‘[It] recommends that text conveying nutritional information should be a minimum of 3mm high, which would have an enormous effect on packaging’, says Frost. ‘From a design point of view, I would advise against that.’

An unnamed FSA source working on the consultation paper says, ‘It is a valid point – I don’t know why it hasn’t been sent to any design bodies.’

The UK Government is currently undertaking consumer research into three compulsory front-of-pack nutritional information systems, and will choose one at the start of 2009. One scheme features traffic lights, the second combines traffic lights with guideline daily amounts, while the third includes only GDAs. The FSA pioneered the traffic-light system, and is understood to have support from the Department of Health.

The EC draft proposal consultation ends on 2 May, to be published in July. See the FSA website,


The European Commission proposal will:
• Introduce simplified measures
• Introduce mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling for energy, fat, saturated fat and carbohydrates, with specific reference to sugars, and salt per 100ml/mg or, in certain circumstances, on a per-portion basis
• Clarify and tighten the rules on providing declarations of origin
• Permit the continued use of traffic-light labelling in the UK

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  • Richard James McIlrath October 7, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I’m amazed at the idea that the food standards agency is not taking on designers ideas and concerns about the revisions to the food labeling guidelines. The FSA is suggesting 3mm print!?! The height of wording on a prescription medication’s PI is only 1mm and that info is vital compared to ‘nice to know’ value of the GDA information. It appears the FSA’s new perceived importance in a post-Jamie Oliver world is making them oddly single minded… besides anything else, to fit the required info on a pack will require either less branding (unlikely) or more packaging to hold it! Orthogonally thinking designers could best solve this issue – Wake up FSA!

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