Food labelling backgrounder by vivi07


									Food labelling schemes operating across Europe
Background In the past few years different types of nutritional labels have been appearing on food products, assisting consumers towards a balanced nutrition and healthy life style. Voluntary systems by food authorities and company initiatives are now commonplace on supermarket shelves in some European countries. Should there just be one system, should it be mandatory and if yes, which one? At the beginning of 2008, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation on “Food Information to Consumers” (2008/0028/COD). The debate is currently going on in the European Parliament.

Overview An overview of the most frequently used voluntary labelling schemes ● Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) labelling system

The GDA system shows consumers the absolute amount of energy and some nutrients (fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt) in a portion of a product, and also what that represents as a percentage of the guideline daily amount of that nutrient that a person might consume in a day. Guideline Daily Amounts inform on the maximum amount of energy and nutrients that a healthy adult should consume in a day. These values are derived from international, EU and government guidelines that are based on the latest published data on dietary requirements and recommendations.

● Interpretative systems, based on colour coding, or use of HIGH, MEDIUM, LOW. ► The Traffic Light systems are the best known, and are based on a recommendation from the UK’s Food Standards Agency ( The colour codes show the amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt per 100g of the food or per portion (where the portion is over 100g). The consumer can also see the amount (in grams) of the nutrients that are present in a portion of the food. In some cases, the calorie content is colour-coded, in other cases not. Green: low amount of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt Amber: medium amount of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt Red: high amount of fat saturated fat, sugars and salt

► Traffic Light colour coded Guideline Daily Amounts This system (often referred to as a hybrid system) represents a combination of the GDA labelling system and traffic lights. They show the percentage of the guideline daily amount of energy and some nutrients (fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt) in a portion of food. The colour coded GDAs also provide information about whether the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt in 100g of food.

Some supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s in the UK, also use a hybrid form, such as the Wheel of Health below.

► Nutripass

This colour coded GDA system, used by the retailer Intermarche in France, expresses nutritional content by contribution to daily needs and also indicates by green, yellow and orange the presence of different nutrients in the diet. The logo is green when the portion carries less than 5 % of the daily needs; the logo is yellow when the portion carries between 5% and 25% of the daily needs; the logo is orange when the portion carries more than 25 % of the daily needs.

● Health logos Healthy eating logos are used on foods that fulfil certain nutrient criteria, and help consumers to identify and purchase the healthiest option.

Different health logos are used in the different European markets; The Swedish keyhole labelling is one example of them.

► Keyhole labelling system

The keyhole indicates the healthiest food in a given category. Current key hole categories are dairy products, low fat spread & reduced fat margarines and spreads, meat (including processed meat products), fish, mixed and ready prepared products, fruits and berries, vegetables, potatoes, bread, pasta, flour and cereals.

Products that carry the green (or black) keyhole-shaped symbol are lower in fat, saturated and trans fatty acids, sugars and sodium and contain more fibre.

This system has been adopted by the Nordic countries. The Netherlands has introduced an energy logo for the front of packs, showing the amount of calories in a product per portion or packaging unit.


More information on how the food labels work (including an interactive section), can be found on About EUFIC The European Food Information Council, EUFIC, is a non-profit organisation which provides science-based information on food and food-related topics to the media, health and nutrition professionals, educators, and opinion leaders. EUFIC is supported by companies of the European food and drinks industries, and receives project funding from the European Commission. EUFIC maintains relations with a network of independent scientific experts, food company specialists, educators, government agencies and consumer organisations. EUFIC's goal is to enhance the public's understanding of nutrition and food safety; thus contributing to raising consumers' awareness of the active role they play in safe food handling and choosing a well-balanced, healthy diet. Should you have any questions or require further information about EUFIC, please contact: Laura Smillie, Communications Manager, European Food Information Council Direct telephone: +32 474 94 01 98 e-mail:

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