Consumer Safety – Why Take Unnecessary Risks with Product Labelling?

Do You Know What You’re Eating & Drinking

We human beings consume over 30,000 species of plants and animals. However, for the most part, we don’t know much about what’s in them. The Rockefeller Foundation initiated the Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI) project with the aim of documenting the extensive variety of biomolecules present in food. Its long-term objective is to support enhancing agriculture, nutrition and health (Science Organisation).

It was great to see organisations helping to improve the transparency and traceability of food products for consumers. As consumers, however, we fortunately don’t need this level of detail before we eat or drink – we just need to know that it’s safe.

Confusing Origin Labelling

Which?, the consumer rights pressure group, has uncovered a surprising amount of inconsistent and misleading labelling. According to a survey of 2,011 UK adults, only 51% of shoppers considered the current origin information displayed on groceries to be useful (Food Manufacture).

confusing food labelling and packaging manufacturing

For example, Aldi’s Crestwood bacon and cheese wraps are labelled as ‘made in Britain,’ while Lidl’s sausage rolls are made with a mix of UK and non-UK pork, so these could contain port from anywhere, worldwide. The information on food labels is confusing and conflicting, leaving consumers struggling to obtain clear information about the origin of their food, especially in ultra-processed foods. Most of us would be more interested to know which parts of the animal are contained within our highly processed food, than where it came from.

Growing Concern on Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) scored worse on food package labelling. UPFs typically contain more than five ingredients and have been linked to obesity and heart disease (BBC). Despite being perceived as less healthy, these convenient options are chosen by consumers at least once a week, largely because they are convenient, readily available and taste good.

ultra processed food labelling manufacturing MIS/MES

The research conducted by the EIT Food Consumer Observatory revealed that 67% of European consumers express discomfort when their food contains unfamiliar ingredients while 40% do not trust that ultra-processed foods are regulated well enough by authorities to ensure these foods are safe and healthy in the long term (The Grocer).

There is a clear knowledge gap between how manufacturers present ingredients and how consumers identify useful information on food labels. Whether it’s identifying potential allergens, verifying product origins, or understanding nutritional content, clear and reliable labelling is essential to support consumers in making informed and healthy decisions about the food they consume.

With increasing trends in healthy eating, more consumers might shy away from ultra-processed foods, especially when they can’t obtain clear information on the food label. Providing consumers with clear labelling and guidance could help them better understand the food they eat and regain confidence in minimally processed foods. Packaging should indicate whether a food item is high in fat, salt and sugar, which are largely flavour enhancers, become addictive and contribute hugely to obesity and other long term health problems.

Accurate and Consistent Labelling

To ensure accurate and consistent labelling, we suggest that ultra-processed food manufacturers implement a systematic approach and adhere to regulatory guidelines. Here are a few steps manufacturers can take to achieve this:

  • Ensure that your SKU master data is always up to date.
  • Conduct regular audits: Periodically audit labelling practices and procedures to identify any deviations or non-compliance issues. Address any discrepancies promptly and implement corrective actions to prevent reoccurrence.
  • Verify ingredient information: Conduct thorough checks to verify the accuracy of ingredient information before labelling. Cross-reference ingredient lists with supplier documentation and ensure that any allergens are correctly identified and highlighted.
  • Utilise technology for accuracy: Consider implementing technology solutions such as barcode systems and automated label verification software, to minimise human error and ensure accurate labelling. These systems help streamline the labelling process, improve efficiency, minimise risks to consumer health and costly batch rejections.

Harford Compliance Solutions

At Harford Control, we always encourage Quality and Compliance first. Harford Compliance Solutions empower manufacturers to ensure consistently accurate labelling, precise product identification and matching. The safety and quality of products is ensured, whilst maintaining allergen control. Our compliance solutions include barcode inspection, vision inspection, autocoding, machine integration and ERP/SAP connectivity, dependent upon the risks and needs of each application.

To maintain competitiveness in the food and beverage market, it’s crucial for UPFs manufacturers to take proactive steps to improve their labelling, ensuring the provision of accurate and consistent information on their packaging.

Where food and drink manufacturers face consumer health risks, product withdrawals, costly batch rejections or encounter any label compliance or appearance challenges, our specialists are here to offer guidance, provide the necessary audits and technology to enhance their quality control processes and install system solutions for ease of control and sustained product confidence.

As one satisfied client said, “We now have the confidence to know that what goes out, stays out.”

Please reach out to us at info@harfordcontrol.com or give us a call on +44 (0)1225 764461.

Share your thoughts to Info@harfordcontrol.com or give us a call on +44 (0) 1225 764461