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Monday, January 19, 1998 Published at 12:02 GMT


Food labelling campaign launched.
image: [ Hidden extras may lie in some of our favourite foods ]
Hidden extras may lie in some of our favourite foods

Calls are being made for more precise food labelling amid claims many of us don't know what we're eating.

Launching a campaign to improve information on food labels, the lobby group The Food Commission warns of hidden ingredients and "unwanted extras" in many of our favourite foods.

The labelling drive comes just days after the Government published plans to give its new Food Standards Agency the power to set new standards for labels.

Campaigners say consumers have the right to "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" on food packets, but are often being sold short.

[ image: Sue Dibb
Sue Dibb "Consumers want truth"
"All too often we are kept in the dark," said the Food Commission's Sue Dibb.

She warns consumers are not always getting the whole truth about food, with some manufacturers failing to mention if a product contains genetically modified soya or other organisms.

And at present many foods - including alcoholic drinks, chocolate, take-away foods, fish and eggs - do not have to list their ingredients and additives.

The Commission is calling for food regulations to cover all products to prevent misleading health and nutrition claims.

[ image: Campaigners want regulations for all foods]
Campaigners want regulations for all foods
They are also pushing for shoppers to be educated so they can understand confusing labels.

The Commission says the establishment of the Government's new Food Agency was "a great step forward", but must be coupled with more openness, fewer decisions taken behind closed doors and more communication with the public, so that consumers could buy their food with confidence.

The agency won't be up and running for at least two years, and the Commission's Sue Dibb, says action is needed now in the interests of public health.

The Food and Drink Federation, which speaks for 90% of UK food manufacturers, says the house of its members is clean.

A spokesperson says the vast majority provide more information on their labels than they are legally obliged to.

There are also cases where manufacturers have set themselves voluntary standards which exceed laws under the Food and Safety Act.

After setting their own standards on the labelling of genetically-modified food late last year, members are now pushing for a tougher European-wide line on the matter.

The federation says universal change to labelling standards will only occur through legislation.


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