Ah, Front of Pack Labelling... The colourful, eye-catching virtue-merchant...selling happiness through self-denial or indulgence while its formal, duller brother quietly signs off the legal stuff round the back... The law doesn't even say it has to be there, so frankly, it's doing you a favour just by turning up...

Voluntary Front of Pack Nutritional Labelling for food (almost never referred to by its user-friendly acronym, FOPNL), was promoted as an intervention to aid consumer awareness and encourage healthier choices. 

The logic of the scheme was that reducing complex nutritional information to simple visual cues would promote understanding, leading to a shift in consumer behaviour and a reduction in consumption of notorious disease-mongers like saturates, salt and sugars. And it has been a qualified success - shoppers have been drawn to healthier options by the familiarity and reassurance of green traffic lights (and the occasional amber - you have to live a bit). The % RI (reference intake) values show consumers how much of their recommended limit of salt, saturates etc. is available in each purchase and allow them to choose how they get to their daily total. 

What this article from Science Daily is suggesting, however, is that Front of Pack Labelling has also been a driver in manufacturers and retailers engineering healthier nutritional profiles in the products available. The research detailed in the article indicates that not only do consumers choose healthier items, they are being offered products which have been deliberately reformulated to attract purchasers through more favourable FOP claims. And the biggest improvements have come in the least healthy categories - sweet and savoury snacks...

There we are then - consumers make healthier food choices which are more abundantly available than ever and everyone lives long enough to celebrate their telegram from the monarch of the day by doing a fun run... Well, not quite... 

It is not all plain, virtue-signalling sailing. A related report from Science Direct suggests that there may be a 'halo' effect on products with healthier FOP claims, leading purchasers to perceive this as a green (traffic) light to eat as much as they please, inadvertently consuming more calories, fat, salt etc in the process. Human behaviour eh...? 

But this is partly an educational issue, and the provision to consumers of more information, presented in a simple relatable way has produced some tangible long-term benefits. The Food Standards Agency currently has a survey underway which asks the  public their opinions on front of pack labelling - if you have your own ideas, why not share them...?

 https://consultations.dhsc.gov.uk/5e32eb6e6cfc6412797d6288