Latest food labelling schemes dismissed by GPs and public

Article date: 19 July 2007

With the obesity time bomb still threatening to overwhelm NHS resources, GPs and the general public are criticising food manufacturers' latest efforts to tackle the problem according to new research released today.

Norwich Union Healthcare's Health of the Nation report, which surveyed 1,000 doctors, reveals that four in five (81%) GPs say food manufacturers need to take more responsibility for communicating clear nutritional guidelines on their products.

When asked about the recent changes to food packaging, including traffic lighting and guideline daily amounts, nearly half of GPs (48%) say that they have had no or little impact on patients' eating habits.

Norwich Union Healthcare also questioned the UK public on the issue and found that:

  • 42% find traffic light labelling and guideline daily amounts confusing and difficult to understand
  • 41% say that labelling hasn't affected their eating habits
  • 21% believe that food manufacturers/advertising are responsible for the UK's obesity problem
  • 77% are concerned about the growing problem of obesity.

What's more, while many GPs are in support of the recent ASA restrictions on junk food advertising, nearly two-thirds (62%) do not believe that it is strong enough and are calling for a complete ban.

GP Dr Ann Robinson, comments: "Food manufacturers need to work on clearer labelling of food as the current systems can be very confusing. For example, some red light foods are ok in small quantities and some green light foods are considered healthy because they are low in fat, but may contain lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners"

Dr Doug Wright, clinical spokesperson for Norwich Union Healthcare, says: "GPs can and do offer advice, counselling, referral to a dietician and even surgery for the most obese, but have relatively limited success in persuading patients to lose weight. We should therefore be working to prevent obesity and educating consumers about the food they eat is key to this."


Media contacts:
Melanie Corbett or Sharan Chaggar at Lexis PR
Telephone: 020 7908 6488
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Norwich Union Press Office contact
Emma Broadbent
Telephone: 01904 452791 / 07800 692935

Notes to editors:

About the research

GP research
Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned health research experts MedeConnect to recruit a panel of 1,000 general practitioners from across the UK to complete a comprehensive online survey. This panel is representative of the 38,000 GPs in the UK in terms of gender, ethnicity, practice type and location, and reflects the regional proportions of the UK. The research was conducted between 9 and 13 March 2007.

Consumer research
YouGov surveyed 2,004 adults between 29 June - 2 July 2007.

About Norwich Union Healthcare
Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protection and private medical insurance products that cover over 980,000 lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection and private medical insurance in the UK.

Norwich Union Occupation Health, a sister company of Norwich Union Healthcare, provides Occupational Health Solutions services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced Occupational Physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.

Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

About medeConnect was set up in 1998 by doctors for doctors and has since developed into one of the UK's leading sites for doctors, with over 140,000 registered. MedeConnect, the market research side of, is one of the largest suppliers of online market research in the UK healthcare sector.

It has unmatched access to UK physicians through the site and delivers high quality quantitative research for a wide range of clients from the public sector to pharmaceutical companies.

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