Monday, 15 December 2014

Lidl Error Exposes Insufficiency In New EU Regulations

Lidl Ireland have displayed incorrect nutritional information on milk cartons for several months prior to the introduction of new packaging as demanded by EU regulations on food labelling implemented on December 13th.

Lidl's Morning Fresh brand of skimmed milk erroneously stated that it contained two per cent of a person's Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of sugar per 100 ml, whereas the actual amount is five per cent. It is unclear when the error was first printed on the milk cartons, raising questions about the fact-checking of voluntary nutritional information displayed on food packaging.

[caption id="attachment_100" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Honest milk-stake (pun!) Bad Math. Lidl's skimmed milk showing the error in voluntary nutritional info on the package (circled, left), Lidl's low fat milk with the correct calculation (circled, mid), and the GDA as displayed on the side of the pack (right). Image © David Kirk 2014.[/caption]

When asked about the error, Lidl Ireland’s Head of Communications, Aoife Clarke, stated, “On this occasion, yes, there seemed to be an error”, adding that the packages are being phased out in line with the new EU regulations.

The new regulations, which force those in the food business to display potential allergens (reviewed in The Irish Times by dietitian Paula Mee) contained in their food products or that may come into contact with their products, legitimise GDAs in law for the first time. However, GDA will be replaced with Reference Intake (RI) values and addition of RI to food labels will remain voluntary, with manufacturers responsible for their accuracy.

Ms Clarke also stated that “All labels are reviewed by our Packaging Dept and are sent for a final check to a legal expert. This ensures that errors are kept to a minimum.”

While Lidl’s error is a mistake that slipped through the net, the fact that manufacturers in general display simplified nutritional information such as GDA/RI without any oversight seems to be an obvious failing of the new EU regulations on labelling.

A 2009 consumer attitude survey by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found that 53 per cent of consumers considered GDA to be their preferable display of voluntary nutritional information on food packages. Presumably GDA’s replacement, RI, will be held in equally high regard by the consumer.

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