The Co-op is stepping up its ethical marketing crusade with a
campaign for a government crackdown on misleading food labels.
The consumer-owned retailer claims that nine out of ten people are
deceived by food companies’ ’labelling tricks’, including ambiguous
low-fat claims, overly glossy pictures and the use of meaningless
adjectives such as ’wholesome’ and ’traditional’.
It has drawn up an industry code of practice, which it hopes will be
adopted and enforced by the government and UK consumer groups, such as
the British Retail Consortium, and is applying the code to its 3000
The Co-op initiative, which follows its ’Lie of the Label’ report
compiled during the summer by Taylor Nelson AGB and NOP, is backed by
the Consumers’ Association, which this week launched its own policy
paper to guide the Food Standards Agency.
Two of the main recommendations of the Co-op report are: a commitment by
manufacturers and retailers not to design own-label packaging which
deliberately mimics well-known brands, and the labelling of meat and
fish products with all varieties of meat and fish included.
The report also calls for a ban on misleading ’fat-free’ and nutritional
claims; the inclusion of percentage contents on ingredients lists and
the use of representative samples of food for photographs.
The Co-op ethical retailing initiatives began ten years ago, with its
lobbying to introduce nutrient labelling. Since then it has taken the
lead on labelling products with medical and environmental information,
included similar data in ’right to know’ leaflets, and labelled alcohol
brands with health warnings.