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UK Food and Medicines Database

FROM: David Harrison

What NEED does this meet?
Full-disclosure information upon the ingredients and nutritional value of every branded food and medicine product in the UK, according to the needs of the consumer, permitting personal day-to-day nutiritional diaries to be kept, and specific ingredients avoided (ie. peanuts, GM).

What is the APPROACH?
A single, free to access database listing every food and medical product on sale in the UK. Each product has a full list of its ingredients, not according to UK/EU labelling laws, but according to the interests of consumers, so explicitly whether the product may contain any nuts, animal products, GM product. Note, for example, that there would be no category for 'sodium', only one for 'salt' (Sodium x 2½ = Salt content, a common industry trick to hide a negative aspect of a product). Labelling laws allow the food industry to 'lobby' government to get away with not telling consumers what they want to know about ingredients. Their lobbying wouldn't work on this database. Full disclosure would be required for inclusion, and if they aren't on it, then customers may fairly assume that the company has something to hide, and neither it, nor its products should be trusted.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
All products can be checked easily, without squinting at labels in supermarkets and trying to work out whether the food manufacturer has managed to hide something that you want to know about a food product, using a loophole in the labelling laws. Is it suitable for vegetarians or vegans? Does it contain any GM product? The 'My Nutrition' feature would allow you to click on a specific product as you ate it, and add it to your nutritional diary, to test the quality of your diet, so if you eat three shredded wheat, the exact nutritional contents of that particular brand of product goes on to your diet sheet for the week. If you eat too much salt, sugar, fat, and processed food, and too few vegetables, the system can automatically tell you. It will also cover the ingredients of medicines, a particular problem as corporates offload GM product, and manufacture tablets that contain animal products without advertising that fact, merely because the production costs are a little cheaper.

What is the COMPETITION?
Currently you have to get printed lists of own-brand products from each supermarket, hoping they don't go out of date too quickly as product formulations change, and try to decipher food labels, most of which are designed to avoid telling you the things you want to know. The site would allow nutritionists to tag products as being particularly high in saturated fats or salt, and even give league tables of the current 'ten branded yogurts with the highest salt and sugar contents' etc.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The technology to run the site, once up, would be easy to maintain. Data should be uploaded and maintained by food producers. Small producers are usually happy to tell you what their foods contain, and links on the site would ensure that a listing would be beneficial, allowing a wider audience to be aware of, and to buy their products. The larger supermarkets and brand owners are multi-million pound corporates and can afford to spare a person to maintain the registration of their own brand products. If they don't take part-don't trust their products. With a grant from the DoH (given the site's benefits to the national health), it should be free to use.

November 1, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, Health, User Created Content | Permalink


Can you please tell me what the stylised "e" mark next to the quantity (i.e. 500ml e)
stands for?

Posted by: Barry Featherstone at Nov 21, 2003 6:52:47 PM