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Supermarkets to adopt consistent 'traffic-light' labelling system

Examples of contrasting supermarket food labelling Photo: PA Archive

Food labelling will be made consistent across all supermarkets so that shoppers can easily spot the healthiest option, it will be announced today.

The new labelling system will provide consumers with clear information on the content of the food, Health Minister Anna Soubry said.

The new system will include information on guideline daily amounts (GDAs), be colour coded with a traffic light system and use the words "high" "medium" or "low" to inform people about how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories are in food products.

Health Minister Anna Soubry said:

By having a consistent system we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.

Obesity and poor diet cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses, such as heart disease, later in life.

Farmers fear that milk will be seen as junk food under the new system Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive

Trade bodies fear that products such as cheese, full-fat milk, sausages and bacon will be seen as ‘junk foods’ under the new system, and sales will fall as a result.

This is a quantum leap for public health and the result of tireless work by health campaigners and positive action by our governments.

– Peter Hollins, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation

The colour coding approach is over-simplistic, demonises some food groups, can be misinterpreted and cannot reflect reformulation of products to reduce levels of fat, sugar and salt.

– The National Farmers’ Union

With levels of obesity and diet-related disease on the increase it's vitally important that people know what's in their food so that they can make an informed choice.

– Richard Lloyd, executive director at consumer group Which?

How the new 'traffic-light' labelling system will work

  • Food labelling will be made consistent across all supermarkets so that shoppers can easily spot the healthiest option.
  • The new system will provide consumers with clear information on the content of the food.
  • The new system will include information on guideline daily amounts (GDAs).
  • It will be colour coded with a traffic light system.
  • It will use the words "high" "medium" or "low" to inform people about how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories are in food products.
  • The design of the new label is yet to be decided, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.
  • The new label is expected to be in use by summer next year.