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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Shoppers 'misled' by food labels
Consumers left confused by descriptions on packaging
Shoppers are confused by misleading or meaningless food labels, a report has revealed.

The food industry will now face calls for tougher standards following the publication of the study by the Food Advisory Committee.

Shoppers are confused by words like "fresh" and "natural," the report reveals.

The watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which commissioned the study, will begin consultation next week on setting new standards for the industry.

Words like "traditional" and "original" have led to confusion among shoppers, the report reveals.

Label wording criticised
Natural goodness
Naturally better
Nature's way
Country style
Three quarters of consumers, who took part in the survey, found such terms misleading.

"Farm fresh" is a term that has been used on battery egg products.

And "home-made" jam labels sometimes feature on products that have been made in factory conditions.

Consumer choice

The industry is falling foul of legislation governing labelling, warned the FSA.

Once the new standards are introduced, spot checks will follow to ensure labels are not misleading.

FSA deputy chairwoman, Suzi Leather, said: "This is an important study which takes forward the rights of consumers and doesn't pull any punches".

Labellers have a tendency to be economical with the truth

Report's findings
"People have a basic right to clear and meaningful labels so that they know what they are really buying. This goes to the very heart of consumer choice.

"Terms such as fresh, pure or authentic can be misused and, to quote the report, 'labellers have a tendency to be economical with the truth'."

The report will be used to set clear standards as the FSA advise the industry and enforcement authorities on which terms should and should not be used.

Misleading pictures

Pictures used on food labels and advertising also come in for criticism as misleading.

The report recommends that they should be governed by the same guidance as words.

It says country style and the term farmhouse should be used sparingly.

An FSA report published earlier this year found that 59% of shoppers regularly check food labelling and a quarter of consumers found it "difficult to understand".

Last year the FSA said it would push for changes to European food labelling rules to provide clearer information.

It also called for tighter controls on claims about genetically-modified ingredients and better information for people with allergies.

See also:

07 Dec 00 | Health
Food claims 'must be honest'
06 Jul 00 | Health
'Energising' drink label banned
01 Sep 00 | Health
Organic food 'no healthier'
06 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Food additives
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