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Published: 22 February 2017

Shaping food labelling policy and standards

The University’s Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre has made important contributions to the development of food labelling policy, exploring how consumers make use of, and understand the plethora of labels on food products, considering both nutritional value as well as allergens.

Food labels and packaging are a critical tool to help consumers make healthy, informed food choices. Surrey research has helped to shape understanding and drive policy developments in this area, particularly in regards to front-of-pack nutritional labelling.

The University’s Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre has carried out a range of studies to see how consumers comprehend and interpret food labels and allergen indicators. These studies have subsequently been used by UK and EU regulators to form labelling policies and construct food information regulations. 

In 2012, the UK Government announced that they would work towards a consistent front-of-pack scheme based on a hybrid approach of Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) and traffic light colour coding. Their recommendation gained support from leading retailers, and the technical guidance actively cites Surrey’s research and the importance of consistent and familiar labelling. 

The team’s research on allergies, which present a public health risk, has informed the Food Standards Agency, EU regulation and the British Retail Consortium. Surrey’s recommendations on highlighting allergens in ingredient lists and matching the allergy advice box with the ingredients list to emphasise allergens present in food have been incorporated into guidelines and regulation.

The Centre continues its work on understanding the effects of health claims and symbols on food labels and remains committed to influencing food governance and health communication, ultimately benefitting everyday consumers.  

To find out more, visit the University’s Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Centre website or Professor Monique Raats' academic profile.

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