Section 2: Front of pack labelling

Nutrition information on the front of pack

Although labels are changing, most packaged food and drink products will continue to show simple nutrition information on the front of pack which is provided voluntarily by manufacturers.

Front of pack nutrition labels will show either:
Energy | Fat | Saturates | Sugars | Salt

A example of front of pack labelling

All of this information will be provided in grams (g) apart from energy which must now appear in 'kilojoules' (kJ) and 'kilocalories' (kcal).

This information will also normally be provided as a percentage of the Reference Intake, the new term for Guideline Daily Amount.

Normally the nutrition information on a label will be given in a portion or unit and this will be shown immediately next to the label e.g. 'per ½ of a pizza' or 'per slice'.

IMPORTANT: People often use 'calories' and 'energy' interchangeably. If you advise a patient to watch their calorie intake, make sure that they understand to look for the number in the energy icon that is followed by kcal.


Using front of pack labels to check, compare and choose

The front of pack label allows patients to:

  • Check what their food contains - how much energy and how many grams of fat, saturates, sugars and salt plus how much of their Reference Intakes this contributes to
  • Compare foods they buy with other similar foods
  • Choose the foods that best suit their needs

The label also allows people to:

  • Keep an eye on portion size
  • Focus on the nutrients that are important to them
  • See how individual foods fit into a balanced diet

Example front of pack labels

IMPORTANT: Encouraging patients to get into the habit of using the front of pack label to check the content of foods on a regular basis will make them more conscious of what they are eating.


Variations on front of pack labels

Now that the basic elements of a label on the front of pack are set down in European law there is greater consistency in what shoppers will see on pack, no matter what the individual brand or which supermarket someone shops in.

As well as the information already covered in the previous pages, some labels will have a traffic light colour (red, amber and/or green) overlaid on top of the nutrition information, along with the Reference Intake information. The colour coding is a UK-wide government scheme and provides an indication of whether there is a high, medium or low amount of the nutrient per 100 grams.

Example of front of pack labels

IMPORTANT: Sometimes products may have a similar colour code but still have different nutrition information. The detailed RI information can help patients choose between products that have the same colour. See the example below which shows how the RIs can help choose between two similar pizzas.