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No plain food packaging plans, says UK – but what about alcohol?

By Rory Harrington , 18-Jun-2012
Last updated on 18-Jun-2012 at 13:54 GMT2012-06-18T13:54:35Z

Are industry alliance 'plain food packaging' fears justified? UK Government says no
Are industry alliance 'plain food packaging' fears justified? UK Government says no

There are no plans to extend proposals for plain packaging from tobacco to so-called unhealthy foods, the UK Government has told FoodProductionDaily.com.

The Department of Health has rejected  fears raised by a coalition of packaging companies that plans under consideration to oblige cigarette manufacturers to remove all branding from  cartons except the name of the product and a health warning, could lead to the imposition of similar measures on high-fat or sugar-ladened foods.

No plain packaging, just better labelling

But the spokesman for the alliance of UK-based industry players – that includes API, Parkside Flexibles, Chesapeake, Weidenhammer and Payne – claimed the statement’s failure to explicitly mention beverages could leave the door open to include them at a later stage.

The group last week raised the spectre that if a proposed Government scheme for plain tobacco packaging was brought in, foods were likely to be the next logical target.

“With legislation around minimum alcohol pricing in the pipeline, high profile debates about a ‘fat tax’ and calls for cigarette style health warnings on alcohol and ‘junk food’; brand owners and manufacturers have to open their eyes to the very realistic threat of plain packaging being introduced on a wide range of consumer products,” said Mike Ridgway, group spokesman and former managing director of Weidenhammer UK.

But the Department of Health (DOH) was quick to scotch the suspicions of the industry group:

“We have no plans to introduce plain packaging for food,” a Ministry spokeswoman told this publication.

Instead the Government appeared to be focussing on a strategy of providing consumers with clear information through new labelling regulations.
“We are consulting on offering a single nutrition labelling system to show the fat, salt and sugar content of food to make it easier to make healthier choices,” said the DOH spokeswoman.

Setting sights on alcohol?

However, the packaging coalition remained unconvinced, citing a separate consultation by the Parliamentary Health Select Committee on the possibility of introducing plain packaging for alcohol.

“Time will tell about this,” added Ridgway. “Governments sometimes will change their views to fit in with popular measures. The reply made no mention about alcohol and greater regulation regarding in that area. If experience is to go by, this could very much me on the ' shopping' list as the next target.”

In a recent Government consultation on its future alcohol strategy, the committee did include proposals for plain packaging on alcohol as part of a raft of measures to tackle health concerns arising from excessive consumption.

The closing date for comments was 8 May and FoodProductionDaily.com understands the final report of the issue will be issued later in the summer.

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