BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Healthy eating advice 'overload'
Image of salad
People may be switching off to healthy food advice
Half of British adults are fed up with being told what to eat by "do-good" campaigners, a survey suggests.

Consumer research company Mintel found the barrage of healthy eating information is also leading to confusion among the public.

More than two-thirds of the 988 adults questioned said it is hard to know which foods are healthy as expert advice keeps changing.

A similar number said labelling did not help with selecting healthier options.

Mixed messages

Three out of five said it was difficult to work out if foods were healthy from the labels or information on food packets.

There is a wealth of information, which bombards the public
James McCoy, senior market analyst at Mintel

At the other extreme, the researchers said they anticipated the emergence of so-called "super consumers" - people who take on board all messages about healthy diets and scrutinise the food they put on their plates.

James McCoy, senior market analyst at Mintel, said: "There is clearly a large number of adults who are suffering from chronic information overload when it comes to healthy eating issues.

"There is a wealth of information, which bombards the public in matters of health and diet and given the complexity of many of these issues, it is hardly surprising that so many consumers feel confused."

He said health education campaigners needed to find new ways to encourage change for the better in diet among this section of the population.

Small changes

Jackie Lowdon of the British Dietetics Association said some campaigns sent out confusing and mixed messages that were not properly targeted.

"This can be confusing for people. We need to make sure that messages are simple, positive, consistent, targeted and achievable."

She said the BDA's five-a-day message - encouraging all people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day - was a good example of how a clear health message could work.

Dr Hannah Theobald, of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "It is important that healthy eating messages are consistent to help ensure that the public understand these messages.

"Small changes to the diet can have a big impact on health.

"Providing clear nutrition information on food labels is the key to helping consumers make informed choices as far as diet is concerned. Work is under way to help make nutrition information easier to understand.

"The increased incidence of obesity in this country over recent decades is a major concern. Unless something is done to address this we face a huge public health problem. We need to address poor diets and the lack of physical activity to help prevent this."

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents the industry, has just issued guidance for shoppers on how to interpret food labels.

The Food Standards Agency is currently looking at a number of ways to make food labelling clearer.

Food for thought in schools' menu
18 Apr 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific