Jim Winship

Director, British Sandwich Association

Since the change of government, many thought that the weight of legislation affecting the food industry might just ease a little but signs indicate things are unlikely to change that much.

The move by the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) nutrition team into the Department of Health looks as if there will be as much pressure as ever to tackle obesity by setting targets for salt, fat and sugar. Foodservice and other outlets, currently exempted from the full labelling requirements, are also likely to be ’encouraged’ to display calories and possibly other nutritional information at point of sale.

While convincing consumers to consider their diet more seriously is laudable, imposing targets on food suppliers is not the way to do it, as it can never be applied equitably across the market. The case for providing nutritional information on products and at point of sale is stronger, as consumers can then make a reasoned choice, but an understanding of the difficulties involved is still needed.

Europe, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with an increasing number of labelling requirements some of which seem to have little or no logic, other than to add further cost and administration to food businesses. Proposals being discussed in Brussels may require weights to be given on packaged sandwiches for what benefit? as well as details of any treatment foods have undergone prior to sale. In the case of sandwiches, the fact that an ingredient has been frozen may have to be registered on the label. Given the breadth of ingredients used and the fact that many may have been frozen or treated in some way, it is difficult to imagine how all this can be fitted on to a single label!

At a time when costs are rising, food suppliers do not need these extra burdens. Is it not time that the government took a fresh look at food legislation and applied a bit more logic to what is really needed and what is not, in the same way Lord Young was doing with health and safety?