Painting the real picture

Posted on 9 Nov 2009 by The Manufacturer

Food manufacturers are being advised to take extra caution in labelling products after two recent controversies came to light involving UK companies.

Café chain Pret A Manger has come under the spotlight for using frozen fish and chicken in sandwiches that were labelled ‘Just Made’ while traditional soft drink maker Fentimans is facing a ban of its lemonade product in the US because it contains a trace amount of unlabelled alcohol.

Food regulation lawyer Pauline Munro of law firm Pinsent Masons said the cases are indicative of the increasingly challenging circumstances when it comes to labelling which have come about as a result of increased consumer awareness of food ingredients.

“Manufacturers…have to abide by regulations, but they have to balance this with the need to brand, advertise and market their products using what little space is available to them on packaging and in-store displays,” he said.

“In both instances, neither company has done wrong by the letter of the law, but the spirit of food labelling is increasingly coming to the fore as consumers demand more transparency from manufacturers.”

Munro warned that companies can face not only prosecution but strong negative publicity through a labelling faux pas.

He called for more guidance from regulators and cross industry collaboration to help manufacturers label their products correctly.