Food labelling: Daily intake percentage labels discredited

Government announcements suggest we’ll get a better food labelling system. But in the meantime the discredited daily intake percentage labels are still found on our food.

A Choice report shows the Percentage Daily Intake (%DI) front-of-pack labelling system promoted by some food manufacturers fails to provide consumers with the necessary information to easily compare the nutritional content of similar products.

The report, commissioned by CHOICE and conducted by The George Institute for Global Health (TGI), has found serving sizes vary significantly between similar products in common food categories.

The investigation used TGI’s food labels database to examine products across six categories – snack foods, breakfast cereals, cereal and nut bars, ready meals, soups and yoghurts.

Earlier Choice research had shown that consumers find traffic light labelling a more reliable guide to food health than the %DI labelling used and promoted by the packaged foods industry.

The Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy Final Report was released in January 2011 and the joint government response was released in December 2011.

CFA member Choice welcomed the government’s response:

“.. while today’s decision stopped short of traffic light labels, ministers committed to developing an interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labelling system within a year.

“CHOICE has been campaigning for a traffic light style labelling system for many years because it interprets complex nutritional information and presents it in a way that can be understood, at-a-glance, by time-poor shoppers,”

“A new interpretive system must ensure that consumers are able to compare products easily and make healthy choices.”

“While we’re disappointed that ministers have ignored the evidence supporting traffic lights, we are pleased that the decision for an interpretive system rules out the current, flawed Daily Intake Guide approach favoured by industry.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand summarises all the different food labelling requirements and what they are meant to achieve.