Co-op stores in healthy food trials

MAJOR food brands on sale in Co-op stores are being labelled as high, medium and low for their salt and fat content in a unique trial launched this...

MAJOR food brands on sale in Co-op stores are being labelled as high, medium and low for their salt and fat content in a unique trial launched this week.

The Co-operative Group, which already gives this information – and more – on its own-label products, now wants to demystify the nutritional values of the other products it sells.

For the first time, shelf cards show whether the salt and fat content of comparable products is high, medium or low, enabling consumers to easily choose between them on the basis of their nutritional value.

Over 300 branded products, including biscuits, cereals, yoghurts and desserts, are included in the trial. Ten Co-op stores ? five in London and five in Glasgow – are taking part to see whether consumers switch to healthier choices when confronted with the stark facts about the levels of salt, fat and calories in food products.

Customer exit polls will test their reaction and the findings will be presented to the Food Standards Agency.

The Group&#039s move follows the publication earlier this year of the Commons Health Select Committee report on obesity, which recommended legislation to promote a simpler food labelling system, saying current labelling was often complex and difficult to understand.

However the report praised the Co-op&#039s food labelling, featuring high, medium and low, as `exemplary in comparison with what most supermarkets managed`.

The Co-op Movement has long campaigned for clear and honest labelling, as well as calling for industry-wide acceptance of its high, medium and low descriptors for the nutritional content of supermarket products – even when they are high in fat, sugar and salt.

No other retailers or manufacturers have yet implemented such an approach, despite the obvious benefits for consumers.

The Co-operative Group&#039s David Croft said: `Many products do not carry full nutritional information and the information that they do give is often of little value to consumers without some further explanation like high, medium and low.

`By expanding our current approach, we want to see whether customers feel more confident about nutrition and are encouraged to make healthier choices.`

Added Mr Croft: `According to research for our Shopping With Attitude report launched earlier this year, 96 per cent of people said that food labels should give full information. We hope that this trial will provide useful information to contribute to the debate on diet and health`

The Co-op Group stores involved in the trial are at: Archway, Hither Green, Hamsey Green, Mays Lane and Stepney, all London; and at Barrachnie, Kingco, Wallacewell Road, Shawlands and Tollcross in Glasgow.

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