The European Commission will use the results of these studies as inputs for a proposal for Review of EU rules on information provided to consumers as part of the EU’s ‘farm to fork’ strategy And the Europe’s plan to beat cancer.
Labeling can help consumers make informed, healthy and sustainable food choices.
The Joint Research Center (JRC) has conducted four scientific studies to synthesize current evidence on nutrition labels on the front of packaging, labeling of origin and nutritional information through means other than on the labels as well as to analyze what is currently on the market in relation to the labeling of alcoholic beverages.
Here are some results.
Nutrition labels on the front of the package
Food labeling on the front of the package is one tool that supports the prevention of diet-related and non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer.
Under current EU rules, nutrition information may be provided on the front of the package on a voluntary basis. A variety of voluntary public and private nutritional labeling schemes have been developed and are currently used to varying degrees in Member States.
The European Commission announced, both in her farm-to-fork strategy And the Europe’s plan to beat cancerAnd the Proposal for mandatory harmonized food labeling on the front of the packaging for the European Union.
A JRC study on nutrition labels on the front of the pack showed that:
- Consumers generally appreciate the nutrition labels provided on the packaging as a quick and easy way to obtain nutrition information when making purchasing decisions.
- Less complex labels require less consumer attention and time to be processed.
- In general, consumers, including low-income consumers, seem to prefer simple, colorful, evaluation labels over the front of the package, which are easier to understand than more complex, non-evaluation monochrome labels.
- Nutrition labels on the front of the package can direct consumers towards healthy diets.
- Nutritional labels on the front of the package appear to provide incentives for food companies to improve the nutritional quality of their products, such as by reducing salt or added sugars.
Want to know more about the results? Find the full report here: Schemes for placing nutrition labels on the front of the pack: an update of the evidence.
Market analysis for classification of alcoholic beverages
Under the Nutritional Information Regulations for Consumers (FIC), alcoholic beverages containing more than 1.2% alcohol by volume are exempt from the obligation to display the ingredients list and nutrition declaration on the product label. However, business operators can provide it on a voluntary basis.
The JRC study discovered that in EU27:
- The alcoholic beverage industry has embraced the possibility of voluntary provision of ingredients and nutritional information on alcoholic beverage labels.
- The beer industry stands out among the alcoholic beverage sector, with ingredient information on most beers (about 90%) on the market, and energy information to a lesser extent (about 25-50% of beer products).
- Cider/berry and “ready-to-drink” products carry comparable information in the European Union. About half of the products contain ingredient information and up to 40% carry energy content information.
- Information on ingredients or energy is found less frequently on spirits, and very rarely on wine products.
- Label attributes that redirect consumers to off-label ingredients and nutritional information are uncommon.
Do you want to know more about this topic? Find the full report here: Provide ingredients, energy and complete nutrition information for alcoholic beverages.
Nutritional information through means other than labels, including digital means
Scientists conducted a literature review on alternative sources of nutritional information available in the market along with package labels. They looked at how consumers use, understand, and are affected by these sources of information.
These are the general conclusions:
- Means of providing direct access to nutritional information in the marketplace, such as menu labels, shelf labels, and point-of-sale signs, can be effective in influencing consumers toward healthy behaviors, when compared to online means that require external tools to access information (for example, QR codes or website links).
- If it is not provided on the food packaging, the nutritional information must be directly visible in the market to be able to influence consumers.
- More research is needed to compare the provision of nutritional information through labels and digital means.
Scientists reviewed the literature regarding the influence of origin information for food products on purchasing and consumption decisions. They studied how and why consumers use, understand and are affected by origin information, and came to the following conclusions:
- Information about both the country of origin and the place or region of origin has a significant impact on the food choices of consumers.
- Consumers attach importance to the origin information as follows:
- A reference to high-quality and environmentally friendly products;
- On average they would like to support local or local farmers and food industry.
- Consumers (in surveys) have reported that they attach importance to information of origin. However, when actually shopping, they may focus less on origin information than they would like (due to time pressure, brand appeal, etc.).
Studies and Policy Context
The results will inform current and future nutritional information policy making. In particular, they contribute, along with other factors, to the evidence base that guides the impact assessment of the ongoing review of European Union Regulation No. 1169/2011 On nutritional information for consumers.
These findings will also support the preparatory work for the upcoming European Commission proposal on a The Legislative Framework for Sustainable Food Systems (FSFS) and the Sustainable Labeling Framework for Informing Nutritional, Climatic, Environmental and Social Aspects of a Food Product.
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