The Royal Society for Public Health
Should the food and drink industry fight obesity and related health issues by adding exercise guidance directly to food labels?
That’s the new suggestion from Britain’s Royal Society for Public Health, which argues that the labeling would be useful to help consumers make more informed choices, and such a measure is already supported by 63 percent of adults (in the U.K.).
In a new policy paper, the RSPH called for food labeling to include an “activity equivalent,” which would identify the amount of exercise needed to burn off the equivalent calories in a given food product — half an hour of running to burn off a blueberry muffin, for example.
Suggested label features icons, for walking, running, biking, or swimming, next to the length of time needed per activity.
Two slices of a large pizza, estimated at 449 calories, would require an hour and 23 minutes of walking or 43 minutes of running, while a medium mocha coffee would require 31 minutes of walking or 16 minutes of running. According to the RSPH, during testing, “after viewing activity equivalent calorie labels compared with current traffic light front-of-pack information, people were over three times more likely to indicate that they would undertake physical activity.”
At the moment, the RSPH is petitioning the British government, as well as the nation’s food industry, to test the idea on a select range of food products, so that consumers might learn to prioritize information about physical activity while shopping for groceries.
“We want to think of ways of making it easier for people to make a healthier choice, or at least to understand the choice they’re making,” said Shirley Cramer chief executive of RSPH. “By putting it together with physical activity, you’re giving people a positive option as well. People prefer that to being told not to eat something.”