Health Codes using QR code technology should replace Health Warnings on packaging, a new report has found. A band of global designers, including the Creative Directors of Babylon Health and Neon, have created a cutting-edge alternative to communicate health information at a time when brands are under threat from regulation.

Endangered Species, the grass-roots movement that powered the report, advocates an innovative alternative for Health Warnings – a scannable QR code which consumers can use to access live nutritional and health information from across the world. The QR code logo is a compatible alternative to packaging restrictions, designed to sit alongside existing brand designs in conjunction with other health information, such as Traffic Lights and Drink Aware.

The findings are a response to legislation being tabled by governments worldwide, which threatens brands ranging from meat to dairy, cereals to alcohol, and in some cases coffee. Scotland looks set to follow Ireland’s landmark legislation to introduce mandatory cancer warnings on alcohol – inefficient health warnings could soon be stamped on all alcohol sold in the country. Other markets including Chile and the Netherlands have already enacted law to remove household favourite cartoon mascots from cereal packs and, just last week, the Singapore Ministry of Health announced a public consultation on options to reduce consumption of sugary drinks. The MoH is asking for feedback on four proposed measures: an outright ban, a sugar tax, front-of-pack labelling, or a ban on advertising.

The Global Design Hackathon generated 60 ideas from a group of international designers using positive language to encourage and educate around responsible consumption, whilst ensuring that brands can still communicate to their audience. The Hackathon drew attention to health label issues creating discussion and debate among brand owners, creative agencies and consumer groups.

Ron Cregan, Founder of Endangered Species said: “Essentially, the Health Code logo is a gateway to information about every product — not only what it contains, but also how the product can be enjoyed responsibly. The term The Health Code has a prominent size and front-of-pack placement. The design can be colour matched to the individual brand, so that although it has prominence, it is not a pack ‘violator’.”

Dana Robertson, Creative Director & Founder, Neon said: “Traffic lights have been around for 10 years, they facilitated a need of the moment and have done much good. However, they have not moved with the times and in places become a heavy-handed and broad-brush tool. Clarity, balance and a common-sense approach is required for a creative, forward-looking solution to help manage media and legislative fads and hysteria cycles — especially when it comes to cultural products.”

The Hackathon has created a platform for debate, challenging the prevailing communications concerning packaging legislation. Health codes, as detailed in the report, offer a unique alternative to alarming health warnings and brand censorship, that have already been passed in Ireland and proposed in Scotland.

Emma Booty, Creative Director Babylon Health said: “The idea Health Code was born at the Hackathon. QR codes have seen a rise in popularity as portals to product information in the US, they are very popular in Asia, especially China, Korea and Japan, and brands have already begun to use them on their packaging. For example, KitKat started a YouTube campaign promoting QR codes on the front of their packaging in Spring 2016. If we want people to consume responsibly, then we need to be interesting, level-headed and personable. We believe this is the way to do so.