Salt Awareness Week: French fries to fruit salads – fast food advert bans don’t tackle food label literacy
Ubamarket’s scan, pay, go app enables customers to understand food labels and make informed choices as they shop.
Sadiq Khan’s ban on fast food advertising across Transport For London came into force recently with a goal to reduce the 37% of 10-11 year olds in London that are classified as obese or overweight. In a bold move that has received both praise and criticism, the ground-breaking shakeup will leave a lasting legacy on the youth of today. The ban will specifically target unhealthy foods rather than brands, hoping to encourage companies to prioritise the promotion of healthier options. Bus, rail and tube passengers can expect to see more adverts for French fried replaced with fruit salads. In Salt Awareness Week, in the midst of reports that children’s meals are getting saltier and saltier, the prioritisation of children’s health is a welcome development.
Advertising is incredibly influential and, when it comes to public transport, where often audiences have little else to do other than look at the posters on the walls, the impact can permeate well beyond its initial temptation. Children are constantly presented with an infinite stream of adverts for fast foods, energy drinks and products rich in sugar, salt and saturated fats. As a result, this may be undermining the positive work done by schools in educating children on the importance of eating a balanced diet. Cancer Research UK found a study unveiling that young people that recall seeing junk food adverts daily are over twice as likely to be overweight.
Despite these educational efforts, one of the key problems to overcome when discussing childhood obesity is the food labelling in supermarkets. Ubamarket has commissioned nationally representative research to find out the nation’s attitudes towards food labels, drawing particular focus to how much we understand them when considering our health.
- 44% of Brits said that food labels are difficult and at times impossible to read
- Almost a third of UK shoppers said food labels make it harder to maintain a healthy diet
- More than 12 million of the nation – 28% – say that the complicated food labels are the primary reason they find dieting difficult
- Over half of respondents agreed that the complicated nature of UK food labels make it difficult for people with dietary requirements to make informed decisions about their food
- Almost two in five Brits don’t feel that they know enough about the ingredients in the food they eat
- 44% of respondents, representing almost 23 million Brits, wish there was a solution that made figuring out food ingredients easier
Banning these adverts is certainly an admirable start to tackling childhood obesity, yet part of the problem is that shoppers struggle to identify healthy products in stores. For those of us with allergies, dietary requirements, health concerns or simply those that don’t enjoy certain ingredients, food labels are essential.
However, Ubamarket’s research has found that almost 23m shoppers find the labels impossible to read. Clearly, what should be an informational tool is not serving its purpose. Retail tech developments can make it easier to identify the foods that are right for you, displaying in more detail the salt, sugar and nutritional profiles of your favourite foods and highlighting healthier alternatives.
Ubamarket’s Allergy Alerts feature makes it simple to identify specific ingredients, including whether foods are vegan, vegetarian or gluten free.