New food labels showing exercise required to burn calories criticised

GlobalData Consumer 8th January 2020 (Last Updated January 8th, 2020 08:53)

New food labels showing exercise required to burn calories criticised

The Royal Society for Public Health UK said that most people do not have a strong understanding of the calories and fat levels within the realm of energy balance.

They are pushing for a labelling system that tells the consumer how long it will take to exercise off the food they have just consumed.

This theory has been backed up by research from Loughborough University who said that the idea could help a person reduce their calorie count by 200 each day.

Patronising? Certainly! A good idea? Absolutely not! And here is why.

Obesity has been highlighted heavily in the media in recent years and, in the UK, the NHS has suggested that it is a threat to public health.

The question needs to be asked – is this a form of shaming? Well, yes. Essentially, these food labels tell you that the pizza you are eating will take hours to burn off. Even certain items seen as healthy such as avocado could fall foul of the system.

That is due to its simplicity. A product’s nutritional value is often complex, and people need a variety of foods to have a healthy, balanced diet. Considering this, how will the new system determine what are good fats and what are bad fats? And how will this be quantified in terms of individual needs?

Moreover, in an era of body positivity and campaigns to embrace all shapes and sizes, the labels may face some backlash. This is especially a worry for those who may suffer from mental health issues such as anorexia and bulimia as this could be seen as another barrier to recovery and could be potentially very dangerous for people who are susceptible to these illnesses.

There is also the consideration of calorie loss from general everyday tasks, which also needs to be addressed. Metabolisms, disability, injury are also factors that need to be considered. This is like getting a square shape and claiming it will fit into all different shaped holes. It will simply not work.

The system would also have a detrimental effect on the food retail industry, adding pressure on brands that already feel the pinch from Brexit uncertainty, changing consumer attitudes and new taxes.

It feels like this is a bright idea from someone who is projecting their views upon the world. It may be well-intentioned and from the right place, but there remains a lot of obstacles that could be disastrous for both consumers and the food industry. Before implementation, this well-intentioned person should get off their high horse and take a look around at the issues that this could cause.