Hard-to-read labellingFSA slaps food firms over label tiny print

14 February 2006

Shoppers are having difficulty reading some food labels because the writing is too small, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In two surveys of products, the watchdog checked country of origin marks and labelling in general. These revealed that some instructions, ingredients lists or date marks are in print that's too small to read. The FSA now wants the problem addressed.

One of the two surveys looked at the industry's response to FSA guidance on making food labels clear. Of the 396 products examined by experts, 71 per cent emphasised commercial aspects such as the brand at the expense of essential information about the contents.

Recommendations ignored

The FSA also found that font size recommendations were ignored in 83 per cent of the products it checked.

However, the food watchdog said that many manufacturers provided information on labels that exceeded legal requirements.

It found that 69 per cent of all meat and meat products carried country of origin information, 89 per cent of products carried nutrition information while 46 per cent of products containing allergens used specific allergy information or alert panels such as 'contains nuts' boxes.

The FSA will discuss the findings with a range of stakeholders next month to find out why some parts of the guidance are being followed more widely than others.