Mothers back traffic light food labelsNearly four out of five prefer scheme

27 February 2007

Shoppers support the ‘traffic light’ system of food labelling rather than the guideline daily amount (GDA) system adopted by much of the food industry, researchers said today.

Parenting website Netmums.com said its survey of some 17,000 mothers found nearly four out of five (79 per cent) preferred the ‘simple’ traffic light scheme over the GDA scheme.

The traffic light scheme interprets food contents with a green, amber or red symbol to show how healthy they are.

The guideline daily amount system, used by supermarket giant Tesco among others, gives the proportion of the same constituents as a percentage of the daily intake of an adult.

Traffic light scheme

Those who preferred the traffic light scheme did so because it was quick and easy to use, the website said.

Many parents said that with limited time, the simplicity of the traffic light scheme made it more workable.

There was a similar preference for the traffic light scheme (76 per cent) among Tesco shoppers despite being exposed to the GDA scheme, the website said.

More than 96 per cent of respondents said they would be using the front of pack labelling sometimes or often to make healthier choices for their families.

Shopper confusion

The website said the lack of a united approach towards labelling caused confusion.

Cathy Court, Director of Food and Nutrition for Netmums, said: ‘When you're rushing through the supermarket with a baby who's starting to grumble, a toddler who wants to play with the eggs and an older child using the trolley as a go-kart, you need simple, at-a-glance labelling.

‘Our survey shows that the red, amber, green colours adopted by the FSA (Food Standards Agency) and supermarkets like Sainsbury's are easier to use than having to understand the percentages on packets that you will find in Tesco.’

Which? food campaigner, Miranda Watson said: ‘Which?’s own research shows that traffic lights are the best way to help busy shoppers identify healthy choices quickly and easily.

‘The food industry needs to listen to its customers and we continue to urge manufacturers and retailers to add traffic light colours to their labels.’

Customer behaviour

But Tesco argued that while the traffic light scheme may appear more simple at first glance, the real test was whether it changed customer behaviour.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: ‘Our sales data shows us that GDA labelling helps do exactly that, and the 15 million customers we welcome into our stores every week are already using GDA labels to help them adopt a healthier lifestyle.’

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