Gov urged to adopt traffic light system to fix food label chaos

Unilever and Nestlé join productDNA service
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ 126386192

An investigation into breakfast cereals aimed at adults has revealed that inconsistent packaging information risks misleading consumers about their sugar, salt and fat intake.

To that end, Which? is calling for traffic light food labelling to be made mandatory after Brexit to put an end to potentially misleading labels.

Many supermarket own-brands have adopted the traffic light scheme voluntarily but household names such as Kellogg’s are lagging behind, leaving consumers faced with a bewildering range of information about nutrition and portion sizes.

The consumer champion looked at a range of cereals, porridges and granolas and found they could contain more than three-quarters of the recommended daily maximum of free sugars in a portion – with the “true” sugar level not reflected on the packaging.

Consumers might also be confused by food companies changing the portion sizes on their packaging or in the case of Nestlé cereals; making it even more difficult to compare with other products by including a measure of milk in the nutritional information displayed on their front of pack labelling.

Which? believes consumers would be far better served if all manufacturers used the traffic light nutrition labelling scheme, which shows whether levels of sugar, salt and fat are high, medium or low using red, amber and green traffic light colours – and is based on the amount per 100g. This would make it easier to compare across products, regardless of the portion size suggested.

Because of current EU rules, this kind of labelling on the front of packs is only a voluntary requirement – so some manufacturers are not using it.

Which? is calling on the Government to use Brexit as an opportunity, once EU Laws are transferred to British law, to introduce legislation that makes traffic light labelling mandatory as part of an approach based on high food standards and aimed at boosting the nation’s health and well-being.

“It is clear that the current, non-standardised food labelling system is at best confusing and at worst misleading,” said Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services.

“Helping people to compare at a glance how much sugar, salt and fat a product contains has proven to be an effective way of helping them to make healthier food choices.

“The Government must not miss this opportunity to use Brexit to make traffic light labelling a legal requirement, so consumers finally have clear information to make better and more informed choices.”