A Birmingham healthy eating expert has backed calls to ban food firms from putting 'misleading' healthy eating labels on food packed with sugar and salt.
City public health dietician Eleanor McGee says many people are unaware that many 'low fat' options on supermarket shelves contain far more sugar than their standard equivalent while other apparently healthy options contain high levels of salt.
Furthermore, 'buzzwords' such as 'wholegrains' and 'anti-oxidants' can make shoppers think a food is healthy when, despite having some nutritional benefits, it may also be high in sugar or salt.
Now the Local Government Association has called on the EU to ban misleading labels and to set caps on the amount of sugar, salt and fat a food product can contain if it is to be marketed with any claims of nutritional or health benefit.
Under EU rules, food companies are allowed to make claims that have been accepted as clear, accurate and substantiated. The problem is that these claims can be made on any foods regardless of the overall nutritional quality.
Well-known products which are often marketed as low-fat in the UK, and are ultimately covered by European regulations, include yoghurts, cheese and processed meat.
It takes on average just 15 seconds for a consumer to decide on a supermarket purchase and most buys are done on 'auto pilot'.
Birmingham public health nutrition lead Eleanor McGee said: "If a product is marketed as 'low fat', many shoppers will instantly feel it is the healthy option. But in many cases that's far from the truth.
"People need clear information to ensure they don’t unwittingly buy unhealthy products.
"Obesity is a crisis that we need to tackle on many fronts. Individuals, health professionals, politicians and the food industry must work together."
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