RSPH welcomes new research on novel food labelling as a way to encourage healthier choices.

The research from Loughborough University has suggested that labelling food with physical activity calorie equivalence (PACE) information, which shows how many minutes of physical activity is needed to burn off the calories in a product, can reduce the number of calories consumed.

The review, which looked at 14 different trials, found that PACE labelling was associated with the consumption of 80 to 100 fewer calories when compared with other types of food labelling. The researchers suggested this could reduce consumption by around 200 calories per day.    

While this new review is a positive development in the evidence base around calorie labelling, RSPH would welcome more trialling of the measure in real life retail settings. Furthermore, the implementation of such measures should remain sensitive to any potential negative impact they may have on vulnerable individuals, including those suffering from or at risk of eating disorders.

Duncan Stephenson, Deputy Chief Executive, RSPH said: “We welcome this new research which builds the case for introducing activity equivalent food labelling. Our own research showed that using this type of labelling did make people think twice about the calories they were consuming, and when compared with other forms of labelling, people were over three times more likely to indicate that they would undertake physical activity. This type of labelling really does put an individual’s calorie consumption in the context of energy expenditure, and knowing how out of kilter we sometimes are, this partly explains the record levels of obesity we face.

“We would like to see further research to test if the effect on calorie consumption is sustained when PACE labelling is applied in other settings such as restaurants and supermarkets. Although the difference PACE labelling makes may seem small, these small changes can make a big overall difference to calorie consumption, and ultimately weight gain.”