Archives for category: food labelling

Last Wednesday the FSA (Food Standards Agency) published a survey saying only 2% of consumers look for GM information on labels. Despite the low number of people actually looking for GM information two-third of the British public agrees to say it is important to labelled products with genetically modified ingedients.

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The beginning of November was a rather interesting beginning for the supporters of genetically engineered food labels. Even if victory was not on their side, as the Californian ballot proposing the labelling of genetically modified ingredients in food products was rejected, the movement was still considered important. Why? Because of the increased awareness that GE food labels have started to receive lately.

The polls showed 47% voted in favour and 53% against. Monsanto and food companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle spent $45m on advertising and lobbying for the “no” campaign, while the “yes campaign” only spent around $8m, which was mainly funded by organic food companies.

The “yes” campaign has attracted several celebrity supporters, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and rap star Pharrell Williams who tweeted : “vote yes on Prop 37 if you believe you have the right to know what’s in your food.”

If until recently, the main concern has been the amount of saturated fats and sugars, the latest movement in food labelling shows how really concerned consumers are regarding the foods they intake. Targeted at people’s right to know which foods are genetically modified and which aren’t, the movement triggered the following reaction on behalf of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “These efforts [to label] are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

The reality is that almost 90% of US-grown corn and soybean is GM.

What Exactly Does Genetically Modified Food Mean?

Genetically modified food  have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise  than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change.

genetically modified

A popular fruit that has been genetically modified is Papya. The reason? To resist the ringspot virus. The New York Times stated that “in the early 1990s, Hawaii’s papaya industry was facing disaster because of the deadly papaya ringspot virus. Without the introduction of the genetically modified breed, the state’s papaya industry would have collapsed. Today, 80% of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered, and there is still no conventional or organic method to control ringspot virus.

As expected, the technique has both strong supporters and strong opponents. And while the debates around safety and whether this is ethical or not seem to be endless, the labelling industry is getting ready for what seems to be the next natural step in informing the general public. Product labelling should be as accurate as possible.  Anyway, the choice will always be the consumers’.

Resources: The Guardian, Wikipedia

Product labelling of food items has been a public issue for quite some time. In May 2012 the government began a nationwide consultation of front-of-pack labelling in an attempt to make choosing healthier food easier.

NFU Campaign

Now the public have taken action after a new National Farmers Union campaign launched 12th October 2012 to encourage shoppers to take photos of food labels they view as poor quality. This can mean the person finds them to be uninformative, misleading or confusing.

The real point of contention for the ‘Flag It’ campaign is that the labelling of products such as cheese and milk do not clearly state the country of origin. NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind is concerned that this “can confuse consumers into thinking that they are buying British produce when they are not”.

The campaign will use the photographs sent in from the public to review how supermarkets are currently labelling items, and how the clarity can be improved.

Contract Labelling Service

For customers requiring temporary additional resources for specialist labelling applications, the ALS store offers a cost effective contract labelling service with our industrial labeller. This even includes label on label, which can conceal previous labels you feel may be outmoded or improvable.

From the seed that is planted by some blistered hands to the product that is displayed on a shop shelf, there is a long way of hard work, profits and losses. Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is aimed at improving farmers’ lives. It targets small communities, gives shoppers the opportunity to reduce poverty through a simple purchase. Although the initiative was more than laudable, something else was needed to make the small community shops more connected and responding to the demands of the supermarket chains that owned the majority of consumers.

The solution was found in 1988, when the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, was launched under the initiative of Nico Roozen, Frans van der Hoff and Dutch ecumenical development agency Solidaridad. The independent certification allowed the goods to reach the supermarkets. Fairtrade labelling allowed consumers and distributors alike to track the origin of the goods and make sure they benefited the farmers at the end of the chain. Label printers make it possible for other business to use the label, but its use on packaging requires prior license agreement.

In 1997, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was created, with the goal of inspecting that the standards were met across all countries that had adopted the system.

In 2002 FLO launched a new International Fairtrade Certification Mark aiming at increased shelf visibility and easier cross border processes.

At present, there are Fairtrade Certification Marks on many products, the most popular being coffee, tea, bananas, mangoes, cotton, etc.  There are an estimated 14 million people in the developing world that depend on cocoa production. 90% of cocoa is grown and harvested on small family farms of 5 hectares or less, while only 5% comes from larger plantations. Coffee, so much in demand, and so much a product we are used to, requires a lot of hard work. It takes four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit.

The reputation of fair trade has soured over the past few years and more and more young people and children are educated in this direction.

Fairtrade is an example to understand the value of a label. It can enrich a life, financially speaking, it can save one, in the case of food labels, it can help shape the prestige of a brand.

Maybe not that poetic, it is industrial labelling that helps a message – information or brand, get conveyed.

industrial food labelsConsumers are more than ever interested to know what’s in their food. Over several decades there has been an increase in legislation which forced food manufacturers to display more and more information about the food on its labelling and packing.

ALS understands that proposed changes in food labelling legislation could lead to industrial label applicators benefiting significantly.

In California, the Right to Know initiative, which would require the labelling of food which contains genetically modified ingredients, will appear on the state’s November ballot according to the California Secretary of State’s office.

“We’re thrilled that Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote for the right to know what’s in our food,” Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign told the Sacramento Bee.

“This initiative is pretty simple. It’s about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families,” she added.

Malkan claims the proposal gained steam quickly as her organization collected nearly a million signatures in “just 10 weeks.”

If voters pass the law, it would take effect on July 1, 2014. Labels would read “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

This highlights just how sensitive some food manufacturers are regarding changes in label legislation. As a result labelling businesses which can efficiently label huge volumes of products are best placed to deal with such demands.

traffic labelsThe government has begun a nationwide consultation on the front-of-pack labelling to make choosing healthier food easier for shoppers.

Ministers in the UK want to see all food manufacturers and retailers using the same system to show on the front of food packaging, how much fat, salt, sugar and calories are in their products.

The department of Health estimates that approximately 80% of food products sold in the UK already has some sort of front-of-pack labelling. What seems to be concerning the department of Health is that different retailers and manufacturers are using different labelling systems, which some consumers find confusing.

Some food packaging labels show the Guideline Daily Amount (GDA), which are guidelines about the approximate amount of particular nutrients and calories required for a healthy diet. Meanwhile others will use a traffic light coding system which highlights foods high in fat and sugar, and other products might use both systems.

The UK government argues that if the biggest seven supermarkets all use the same labelling for their own brands, it would equate to about 50% of the food sold in the UK and would also encourage other food manufacturers to follow suit.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Being overweight and having an unhealthy diet can lead to serious illnesses such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. We must do everything we can to help people make healthier choices.

“Offering a single nutrition labelling system makes common sense, it would help us all to make healthier choices and keep track of what we eat. Making even small changes to our diet can have a major impact on our health. Cutting our average salt intake by 1.6 grams a day would prevent over 10,000 premature deaths a year.”

For businesses specialising in the food labelling industry, such as Advanced Labelling Systems (ALS) any changes to the industry are being closely monitored. Food manufacturers will no doubt be doing the same as the changes in law could mean significant changes to the packing of their products.

The consultation will run until Monday the 6th of August.

The food industry and the labelling industry, one could argue are a match made in heaven. As consumers we rarely, if ever, think about the labels on our food when shopping because we are so used to seeing a clear label with the right information on it.

Food manufacturers must by law clearly convey the following:-

  • the name of the food
  • a list of ingredients (including food allergens)
  • the amount of an ingredient which is named or associated with the food
  • an appropriate durability indication (e.g. ‘best before’ or ‘use by’)
  • any special storage conditions or instructions for use
  • the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or retailer
  • the place of origin (where failure to do so might mislead)

Without this kind of information not only would doing the shopping be a lot more problematic, it would also be a serious risk to your health. If for example you are extremely allergic to nuts or dairy produce, doing the food shopping without labels could be life threatening.

In the UK and the US we are lucky that food labelling is an issue that has been addressed for quite some time now. However with the planet’s population estimated to swell to 9 billion by 2050 there will be significant increase in demand for food.

The farming, food, and drink sector is an important part of the UK, being responsible for over 3.5 million jobs. It has a key role in driving strong and sustainable growth, particularly through exporting to overseas markets.

Exports in the agri-food sector have been growing steadily, with 2010 seeing the sixth consecutive year of growth in value to £16 billion.

Key facts and figures:

  • The USA, France, Germany, Spain and Ireland together account for over half of all UK agri-food and drink exports. These are markets which are geographically close, have a large number of ex-pats, and with historic cultural links to the UK.
  • As high-growth consumer powers emerge exports need to be re-orientated to take advantage of new opportunities. The combined value of UK agri-food and drink exports to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico, which together account for 44% of the world’s population, is less than the UK exports to Belgium.
  • China, USA, India, Russia and Brazil are expected to be the top five retail grocery markets by 2015.
  • Research across sectors shows that exporting is good for businesses, with organisations that export demonstrating higher productivity levels, stronger financial performance and greater longevity.