Royal Society for Public Health: Food Labels Should Show Activity Information

January 15th, 2016
Royal Society for Public Health: Food Labels Should Show Activity Information

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has said that labels on food and drinks should show the amount of activity required to burn off the calories they contain and the food and drink industry believe the idea is worth looking into.

They argue that people misjudge the amount of time needed to work off the calories in every day food products. A blueberry muffin takes 48 minutes to walk the calories off, and a mocha coffee containing around 290 calories would take 53 minutes.

The RSPH have produced a policy paper that says the biggest obesity cause is eating more calories than the individual burns off and people who exercise a lot are in a better position to lose weight.

The policy paper says that activity picture symbols on packaging would encourage consumers to either exercise more or choose healthier food options.

Research has shown that consumers are often confused by the current nutritional guidance on food packs because of the overload of information. Also, they only spend an average of six seconds looking at the food before buying it. The paper says that because of this, the information on packaging should be easier to read and calorie information ought to be clearly presented.

The RSPH said that pictorial icons alongside existing information on of packaging would be helpful. The pictures would display the amount of exercise necessary to run or walk off the calories found in the food or drink.

This kind of labelling would also help people to remember how important it is to be physically active. It is widely acknowledged that exercise improves energy levels and mood and reduces depression and stress.

The RSPH carried out of study of 2,000 adults, during which they discovered more than 60% of participants were in favour of “activity equivalent calorie labelling”. More than 50% said it would prompt them to do more physical exercise, choose healthier options or consume smaller portions.

Chief executive of the RSPH Shirley Cramer said that though the nutritional information on food and drink labels has gotten better, it clearly isn’t working as strongly as it should in encouraging consumers to make healthier choices. She said that activity equivalent labelling would provide an easy method of making calories more applicable to people’s day to day lives and added that it would gently remind consumers on the necessity of staying active.

A spokesperson from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said that the concept was interesting and worth looking into. They support the RSPH’s call for more investigations into whether this type of labelling could effectively encourage consumers to look at labels more.

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