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Labelling Debate

The debate about food and drink labelling in the UK continues, with warning labels on alcoholic drinks becoming more likely, though conclusions have yet to be reached.

In March this year, Sainsbury’s suspended its membership of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) after the consortium’s director general, Kevin Hawkins, made statements in support of Tesco’s labelling system.– a system that uses guideline daily amounts. Sainsbury’s makes use of a system based on the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) “traffic light” method. This rates the level of ingredients in food as either low, medium or high.

Sainsbury’s suspension of membership to the BRC was described by a consortium spokesperson as short-term.

Both manufacturers and retailers have taken up some form of one of the two methods, but a consensus on a more harmonised system is yet to be reached.

The European Commission has also proposed a single food-labelling system.

Warning labels on alcoholic drinks are currently optional in the UK. According to the BBC, Public health minister Caroline Flint has been in discussion with the industry about introducing warning labels similar to those found on cigarette packaging. She explained that this could be implemented within two years.

db May 2006

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