Retail News Middle East Monthly Update 6th September 2005

The Middle East apparently has a health crisis: Up to 50% of us are overweight, according to the World Health Organisation, and diabetes rates are skyrocketing. So, what’s to be done?

  • E-Mail
By  David Ingham Published  September 5, 2005

Is it healthy or not?|~||~||~|The Middle East apparently has a health crisis: Up to 50% of us are overweight, according to the World Health Organisation, and diabetes rates are skyrocketing. So, what’s to be done? I’ve touched upon the issue of food labelling in earlier columns, suggesting that manufacturers should start voluntarily listing the amount of fat, salt and sugar in their products. There is no doubt that this would be an important move, but a story in the UK press made me realise that this is only a first step. Over there, the government has been trying to persuade the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and fat levels in food. However, food producers and retailers recently decided that they can’t reduce salt and fat because of ‘technical reasons.’ In order to make sensible decisions about their diet, the key thing that consumers require is information. So, I look on the back of a biscuit wrapper and am told that it has X amount of fat. This is all very well, but I have absolutely no context against which to judge this figure. Is X a lot of fat? How much fat should I, an adult male, be eating? To be honest, I have no clue and I bet most of the consumers browsing the aisles of Carrefour, Spinneys, Lulu, Geant and Panda don’t either. The solution, in my view, would be for food suppliers to add a percentage daily intake column to their labels. This would tell me that X is Y percent of my daily recommended fat intake. I, as a consumer, would find this enormously helpful and I reckon plenty of other people would too. Of course, a lot of food manufacturers wouldn’t be keen to do this, because consumers might be horrified that one chocolate bar accounts for 50% or more of their daily fat intake. But if, as in the UK example, producers won’t voluntarily do anything to try to improve their nation’s health, why not force them to? If the idea were to be tried here, legislation could be passed at a GCC level. The World Health Organisation could advise on what constitutes the daily recommended intake of a particular ingredient. Why not? Regional governments are clamping down heavily on smoking, so it would be reasonable to assume that they share similar concerns about people’s diet. However, would rules be workable? What role should food manufacturers and retailers play in improving public health? E-mail me on: david.ingham@itp.com||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code