The Norwegian Consumer Council has criticised food manufacturers after eight out of ten bread products sold in Norway were found to be mislabelled, including errors in ingredients and allergens lists.
A report conducted last year by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has found that 85% of bread products in Norway displayed errors or defects in their labelling.
According to the 2018 study (available here in Norwegian), 209 bread products were examined. These include baked and half-baked bread, baguettes, crisp breads, and hamburger buns.
The majority of errors appeared in products’ ingredients lists, accounting for approximately 50% of the mistakes, followed by allergen labelling and nutritional labelling – both around 40% – and highlighted ingredients, which accounted for approximately 20% of the defects.
While none of the labelling errors presented health hazards to consumers, the Norwegian Consumer Council said consumers have a right to feel confident they know what they are eating.
“This is a clear breach of trust against consumers…The result is discouraging and testifies to [this] culture in the bread industry, both nationally and internationally,” said spokesperson Gunstein Instefjord in a statement.
“The Consumer Council considers deficiencies in allergen labelling and misleading labelling…as the most serious of the cases. For those who have food allergies or food intolerances, this is particularly important,” he added.
‘It is fully the responsibility of the manufacturers’
According to the Federation of Norwegian Bakers and Confectioners, industry needs to take responsibility. The membership organisation told FoodNavigator it is liaising with the government to address these issues.
“The manufacturers have to adopt more competence on the issue and to take action to improve the labelling…It is fully the responsibility of the manufacturers to do this right,” said a spokesperson for the Federation.
“The Norwegian Federation of Bakers and Confectioners has met with the Food Safety Authority, and we will cooperate on giving courses on the matter to the industry. We have already started working on this,” the spokesperson continued.
The Norwegian Consumer Council agreed that manufacturers need to address food safety and labelling protocol.
“Bread is a crucial part of the daily diet among most Norwegians, and…food manufacturers in Norway are obliged to follow the EU regulation of food information to consumers,” said Instefjord.
“Hence, it is their responsibility that they follow the rules when packaging is designed and developed,” he continued.
Should Norway name and shame?
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s report investigated both Norwegian and imported products, but did not published brands nor product names.
“This is information that we think should have been included,” stated the Norwegian Consumer Council’s Instefjord.
Beyond singling out manufacturers, the Council acknowledged the importance of testing labels within the food industry.
“This report demonstrates how important these kinds of labelling checks are and we think the manufactures – not only bakeries but all food manufacturers – will be reminded of how important correct and honest labelling is,” said Instefjord.