Tag Archives UK

Allergen labeling grabbed headlines in the United Kingdom in 2019 as the country faced pressure from consumers concerned that prepackaged foods lacked mandated ingredient disclosures. Following the 2016 death of a teenager who consumed a premade sandwich packaged without notification of potential exposure to sesame, the U.K. Food Standards Agency launched a public consultation that resulted in the announcement of "Natasha's Law." Under the law, which will take effect in October 2021, restaurants and other food-service entities will be required to provide a full listing of ingredients on prepackaged food. In the United States, sesame is not an allergen that requires labeling, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested comments on the allergy's prevalence and severity in 2018. The New York Times called current U.S. regulations incomplete in January, and an August NPR article compared the two systems and found awareness of allergies in the United States lacking.…

U.K. researchers have published the findings of a comparison of calorie counts on menu items in restaurants that feature labeling of those counts and in restaurants without such labeling. Dolly R.Z. Theis & Jean Adams, "Differences in energy and nutritional content of menu items served by popular UK chain restaurants with versus without voluntary menu labelling: A cross-sectional study," PLOS One, October 16, 2019. The researchers compared offerings from "the 100 most popular UK restaurant chains by sales" and found that 42% of the restaurants offered nutritional information, and 13 of those voluntarily provided menu labeling. The researchers were reportedly able to establish that restaurants that provide calorie labeling on menus offered food with 45% less fat and 60% less salt, though they could not identify whether the labeling caused the companies to formulate products with lower fat and salt contents.

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against The Cornish Rum Co. against its ads marketing Dead Man's Fingers Hemp Rum. The complainant asserted that two Instagram posts and an ad in a trade magazine used language linking the hemp-infused rum to cannabis, including "Delicious mixed with coke or ginger ale—serve chilled, man. Coming to a joint near you." Another Instagram post featured an image of an outdoor ad reading "Warning: Our Hemp Rum May Cause the Munchies" along with "an image of a skull which was smoking and wearing a hat with a cannabis leaf print." The trade magazine ad included the text "Dealers Wanted." ASA dismissed the portion of the complaint arguing that the ad was intended to appeal to an audience under 18, finding that the images "were not references associated with youth culture and that overall the colours and imagery used gave each…

A U.K. modeling study has apparently found that a 20% tax on foods with high levels of sugar could reduce rates of obesity more than taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Scheelbeek et al., "Potential impact on prevalence of obesity in the UK of a 20% price increase in high sugar snacks: modelling study," BMJ, September 4, 2019. The study model predicted the effects of a 20% price increase on "three categories of high sugar snacks: confectionery (including chocolate), [cookies], and cakes." The model reportedly showed that the price increase would cause average Body Mass Index numbers for U.K. residents to decrease by 0.53. "This change could reduce the UK prevalence of obesity by 2.7 percentage points," the researchers assert.

NPR has published a writer's comparison of his experiences eating at restaurants in the United States and the United Kingdom while living with a peanut allergy. "Restaurants in the United Kingdom are generally far more vigilant, in this regard, than restaurants in the United States," the author observes. He recounts his experience being turned away from a U.K. restaurant after answering the server's question about food allergies by receiving a card explaining that the restaurant does "not operate in a surgical environment" and therefore could not guarantee that any of its menu items did not contain peanuts. "In America, the onus typically falls more on diners themselves," the author notes. "It's not routine, as it is in England, for servers to ask their customers proactively." The writer credits coverage of a U.K. teenager's death after eating a sandwich from Pret A Manger that was not labeled as containing sesame for…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint that a television advertisement "perpetuated a harmful stereotype by suggesting that men were incapable of caring for children and would place them at risk as a result of their incompetence." The ad showed a father leaving a baby in a carrier on a conveyor belt as he examined his food options, including Philadelphia cream cheese products. Mondelez argued that it showed two men caring for their children and "took care to ensure the babies were not shown to be coming to any harm." ASA found the arguments persuasive, but it noted that the commercial featured the mother handing the child to the father at the beginning and the father saying "Let's not tell mum" to the child at the end. In this context, ASA found, "we considered the ad relied on the stereotype that men were unable to care for…

The U.K. Cabinet Office has begun an open consultation on general health policies, including nutrition initiatives. The consultation includes an announcement that the government will ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16, with the full policy to be announced "in our consultation response shortly." The consultation response will also include details of a proposed policy on "making calorie labelling mandatory in the out-of-home sector, such as restaurants, takeaways and cafes." Further, the government has identified five areas of the country that will test programs to restrict advertising for foods high in fat, sugar and salt, incentivize business to "improve their retail offer," improve accessibility and affordability of healthy foods and "create healthier food environments through the planning system." The consultation also includes plans for "infant feeding, clear labelling, food reformulation improving the nutritional content of foods, and support for individuals to achieve and maintain a healthier weight."

The U.K. National Audit Office has released a report that "examines the effectiveness of the current regulatory arrangements to ensure that food is safe to eat and is what it says it is." The report found that spending on maintaining food safety systems in the country has declined, and some local authorities "are failing to meet statutory objectives to conduct interventions." The agency also purportedly found that the "regulatory system lacks the full range of enforcement powers to ensure businesses supply safe food."

The U.K. Food Standards Agency has opened a public consultation on labeling allergens on prepared food products. The consultation applies to foods “prepacked on the premises in anticipation of an order, before being offered for sale,” such as “fresh (uncooked) pizzas from the deli counter,” “boxed salads,” “hot foods such as rotisserie chicken or wedges,” and “foods that are pre-weighed and packed such as cheese or meats from a delicatessen counter or baked goods from an in-store bakery.” The consultation closes March 29, 2019. The New York Times also addressed food allergen labeling, asserting that regulations in the United States are incomplete. The author notes that label statements indicating the possibility of traces of allergens are unregulated, leading to inconsistent messages, and some common allergens are not noted at all, such as sesame.

The United Kingdom has launched a public consultation on a proposal to restrict some types of advertising for foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). The consultation targets "volume-based price promotions of HFSS food and drink that encourage people to buy more than they need, for example, ‘buy one, get one free’ and free refills of sugary soft drinks" as well as ads placed at "main selling locations in stores, such as checkouts, aisle ends and store entrances." The government further seeks input on "which businesses, products and types of promotions should be included in the restrictions," "definitions for HFSS products, price promotions and locations in stores" and "how businesses can put this into practice and whether they will face any difficulties."

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