There are a myriad of symbols that can be found on UK food packaging – but what do they actually represent? From the cross grain symbol, to the Mobius Loop (recyclable symbol), this guide will give you all the information you need to understand what each common UK food packaging symbol means.
What are the Symbols on Food Packaging?
Here are some of the most common food symbols found on food packaging.
The Fair Trade Mark
Fair Trade International focuses on protecting the environment whilst also ensuring sustainable livelihoods for both farmers and workers. As a well recognised food packaging symbol, the Fair Trade Mark is well trusted and established. In order for a food product to be Fair Trade certified, companies must work cohesively to ensure that their operational practices and processes meet the specific standards of the Fair Trade Mark.
Resin Identification Code
Whilst it’s not mandatory to display a Resin Identification Code on all packaging in the UK, there are seven codes which determine the type of plastic used to create the products packaging. Please see the table below to see which code represents each type of plastic.
The Mobius Loop
Contrary to popular opinion, this well-known symbol indicates that the material the packaging is made from can be recycled. It is often confused with the idea that it suggests the packaging is made from recycled materials. Whilst this may be true at times, the symbol itself signifies that most recycling collection systems will accept the packaging and in some cases there is a percentage in the middle to explain how much of the product comes from recycled materials.
Do Not Litter: Keeping Britain Tidy
Invented by Keep Britain Tidy, the Do Not Litter symbol acts as a reminder to all consumers that they must dispose of their products packaging responsibility and thoughtfully.
The Green Dot
The Green Dot symbol is a globally registered trademark symbol which can be used by brands and companies on their packaging even if it’s not made from recycled materials or suitable for recycling. This symbol instead indicates that a company has donated money towards recyclable packaging somewhere around the globe.
One of the most important dietary symbols is the internationally recognised crossed grain symbol, which indicates that a food product is gluten free.
FSC Certified Paper
As the consumer world becomes ever more environmentally conscious, there is significant pressure on manufacturers to use sustainable packaging. However, not all paper packaging comes from responsibly-sourced wood. The FSC Certified Paper symbols inform sustainability and eco-conscious consumers that the wood pulp used for this packaging is sourced using environmentally friendly methods.
Another important food packaging symbol is the indicator that a food product is suitable for vegetarians. The Vegetarian friendly packaging symbol can vary, however, typically it can be recognised as a V inside an oval or on it’s own.
As veganism grows more and more, the vegan friendly symbol is being used more than ever. The use of this symbol on a food product confirms that the item has been tested and approved by the Vegan Society – offering reassurance and legitimacy for vegan consumers.
Why are Symbols Important on Packages?
There are a number of reasons as to why food packaging symbols are important. One particular reason is that for those with intolerances such as gluten, being able to identify the universal crossed grain symbol is a simple way to recognise a food product is gluten free and therefore safe for their consumption.
Consumers are also able to easily and quickly identify certain aspects of a product to check they’re suitable for their lifestyle choices, for example, veganism. Additionally, food packaging symbols such as The Mobius Loop and Do Not Litter, work to make consumers more conscious about the packaging material of their products.
It’s also important to note that in some instances, religious beliefs can also affect the purchasing of food items and therefore it might be necessary for a product to be labelled as Halal or Kosher. The symbols for this can vary around the globe, with Kosher products having a symbol for each type of food such as Kosher dairy products.