Development timeline of front-of-pack nutrition labelling
To ensure that the front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labelling is practical and workable, the Agency undertook extensive work with stakeholders throughout its development.
The following timeline indicates the key milestones in the Agency's work with stakeholders:
6 July 2004 Action Plan on Food Promotion and Children's Diets agreed by Agency Board.
26 July 2004 Stakeholder meeting to discuss options for FOP formats for inclusion in consumer research. Five formats for FOP labelling agreed: Simple Traffic Lights (STL), Multiple Traffic Lights (MTL), Extended Traffic Lights, Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) and Healthy Eating Logo . These formats were taken into the first round of consumer research.
16 November 2004 Publication of qualitative research exploring consumers' preference of five FOP formats. The two preferred formats were STL and MTL.
15 December 2004 Stakeholder meeting to discuss outcome of preference research and the next stage of consumer research. The meeting agreed that an optimised format based on GDA should be developed and taken forward to the next stage of research along with STL and MTL.
January/February 2005 An expert group of stakeholders, comprised of representatives from food retailing, food manufacturing, public health bodies and consumer organisations, was set up to help advise the Agency on research methodology, meet to help design consumer research to optimise GDA format, and advise on consumer performance research methodology.
March to July 2005 High, Medium, Low (HML) Advisory Group meet to help develop the nutritional criteria to underpin the High, Medium and Low descriptors.
18 March 2005 Publication of qualitative research exploring consumer preference for GDA-based FOP formats and launch of consultation exercise on proposals for quantitative performance research methodology. The research found consumers preferred a GDA option, including 'per serving' and GDA data presented in a numerical format, rather than percentages or bar charts, and used with colour codes indicating individual nutrient levels (colour-coded GDA). Colour coding was considered helpful in interpreting the numerical information. The colour-coded option was the preferred GDA format tested.
17 May 2005 Update letter sent to stakeholders describing the outcome of the consultation exercise and the quantitative performance research methodology.
June 2005 Performance of four FOP formats - STL, MTL, Colour-coded GDA (CGDA) and Monochrome-GDA (MGDA) - tested with 2,676 consumers. The sample was chosen to be representative of the UK population of 16-70 year olds, with quotas set on gender, age, working status and socio-economic groupings. An additional group of participants from minority ethnic groups were interviewed to ensure we had a representative sample. A 'no FOP' option was also tested. The research showed that FOP labelling helps consumers to understand the nutrient composition of individual foods and compare the composition of two foods. Two of the FOP formats tested, MTL and CGDA, performed significantly better than STL and MGDA.
July 2005 Qualitative research to identify possible improvements to the best performing formats (MTL and CGDA), and investigate how to apply a FOP approach in practice. The research findings indicated that consumers were not familiar with the GDA concept. The research also found that consumers would like to see the introduction of a traffic light colour-coded FOP labelling scheme that indicated the levels of individual nutrients in a product.
August to October 2005 Series of pre-consultation meetings between Agency officials and key stakeholders from the food industry and non-governmental organisations.
October 2005 to early 2006 Series of joint meetings between Agency Chair, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and key stakeholders to discuss a wide range of food and health issues, including FOP labelling.
16 November 2005 Publication of consultation on a voluntary FOP labelling scheme for the UK along with reports of consumer performance research undertaken in summer 2005.
November 2005 Agency contacted 332 small and medium-size enterprises with turnovers of less than £1m and with fewer than 50 employees that might be affected by the voluntary FOP labelling, incorporating traffic lights, scheme to seek their views on the proposals. We also contacted the small firms contacts at the major trade associations.
Late November 2005 to January 2006 Follow-up meetings with key stakeholders.
20 December 2005 Stakeholders invited to submit evidence that may be pertinent to consideration of an appropriate GDA figure for total sugars.
17 January 2006 Stakeholder event in Scotland to discuss the FOP consultation exercise.
9 January to end of February 2006 Consideration of evidence and the basis of the GDA value of 90g for total sugars, set by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), by an expert group set up to review this issue.
March 2006 Publication of advice on the appropriate figure for total sugars in the context of FOP labelling.
9 March 2006 Agency Board agrees principles for front of pack signpost labelling.
March 2006 Update letter sent to stakeholders detailing the outcome of the March Board meeting and seeking views on the criteria for the 'High' band for total sugars.
14 April 2006 Consultation on the criteria for red (high) sugars closed.
18 August 2006 Expert sugars group meets to review its advice in light of consultation responses.
January 2007 FOP labelling incorporating traffic lights technical guidance published.
February - March 2007 Field work took place for breakfast cereals research
May 2007 Final report for breakfast cereals research published
June – October 2007 Technical working group set up to develop criteria for breakfast cereals. Working group produces paper making recommendations for the basis of the nutritional criteria for colour coding breakfast cereals. This includes a refinement of the sugars criteria such that the amber/red boundary is based on added sugars rather than total sugars.
New criteria for breakfast cereals agreed by the Agency’s FOP labelling adopters and supporters, and applied to all the Agency’s recommended FOP categories.
November 2007 FOP nutritional labelling incorporating traffic lights technical guidance Issue 2 published.