Supermarkets ‘misleading’ consumers over healthy foods
The investigation found that three of the top five supermarkets have unhealthy products found in health eating sections.
Many products are vegetarian or vegan, but are highly processed and contain high levels of fat, salt or sugar.
‘I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with eating them or consuming them in moderation,’ registered nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, told the BBC.
‘But telling consumers these are healthier options is a bit misleading.’
There are now calls for more investigation into marketing and labelling foods as ‘healthy’.
Currently there is no legal definition for what foods can be labelled ‘healthy’, meaning supermarkets can include any products under this term.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) says good progress in improving food labelling is now being undermined.
‘We’re aware consumers don’t spend much time making decisions when buying food,’ Duncan Stephenson, director of external affairs and marketing at RSPH, said.
‘Labelling and packaging must be easy to understand.
‘Good progress has been made on food labelling by retailers and manufacturers.
‘But this is at risk of being undermined by supermarket layout strategies and marketing ploys.
‘The big four supermarkets have a huge amount of heft in society.
‘They should be incentivised to present clear and accurate information.
‘If that fails, further regulation should be considered.
‘Brexit may present an opportunity to work with the industry to reform food labels and set a standard for how we can encourage customers to understand and feel able to make well informed decisions.’
Traffic light labelling
Many large manufacturers now include the traffic light food labelling system on their products.
The voluntary scheme aims to make it easy for consumers to see foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
Kellogg’s and Nestlé both decided to introduce the system recently to its cereals.
‘Put simply, they said we should change and move to a full colour solution as they want help making healthy decisions,’ Kellogg’s UK managing director, Oli Morton, said.
‘We’ve listened and now we’re acting.’