Small print in food labelling annoys consumers

CONSUMERS are fed up with puzzling scientific terms and small print labelling on foods, according to a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) survey.

The study found that while one in four consumers in Ireland always read food labels when shopping, 27% said they rarely or never bother.

Food labelling was considered informative by nearly 75% of the shoppers surveyed, and the main reasons these consumers read food labels is to look for nutrient information, calorie content, or to determine if the food contains specific ingredients.

Some 87% of consumers considered the nutrition table on a label to be important, but most wanted to see nutrient values stated per portion rather than per 100g or 100ml.

More than 70% of food shoppers surveyed said they were “very” or “fairly concerned” about salt content. The salt content of a food is declared as “sodium”, but the majority of consumers said that they would prefer to see a “salt” value on the label instead.

More than 80% of consumers want health advice regarding the consumption of alcohol labelled on alcoholic products and 75% of those surveyed would like to see a date of minimum durability labelled on foods sold loose.

Many shoppers found some elements of labels confusing, such as the use of non-standardised measurements for nutritional information and the use of scientific terms for ingredients or nutrients.

More than half of those surveyed agreed that making the information easier to understand and using larger text size would make it easier to choose food the right products.

Country of origin labelling is important to consumers in Ireland with nearly three quarters of those surveyed believing county of origin should be indicated on all foods, pre-packaged and loose.

“The main reasons consumers now read food labelling is to look for nutritional and calorific information, whereas in 2002 the key reason to read a label was to check the best before date,” said Prof Alan Reilly, chief executive, FSAI.


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