A Which? investigation, published today during National Sandwich Week, has highlighted the need for clearer front-of-pack nutrition labelling on prepacked sandwiches.
Which? is urging all retailers to use traffic light labels so that shoppers can easily identify healthier and less healthy choices.
Packaged sandwiches compared
Which? experts compared the nutritional content of BLT, chicken salad and egg sandwiches from the main supermarkets, coffee shops, Boots and Greggs.
The research found that the fat, saturated fat and salt content varied widely. Certain sandwiches contained three times as much fat and double the amount of salt as the equivalent sandwiches bought elsewhere.
Inconsistent labelling across the stores meant that the healthier options were not always obvious.
Clearer labels on sandwiches
Of the retailers visited, only Asda, Boots, M&S, The Co-operative, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose use Food Standards Agency traffic light labelling – with a simple green, amber and red colour code for nutrient levels. Which? researchers applied this system to all the sandwiches to allow for easy comparisons.
They found that Morrisons’ chicken salad sandwich contains 11.7g fat (amber/medium) compared with one from Waitrose, which contains 6.0g fat (green/low). Waitrose uses traffic light labels but Morrisons doesn’t.
A Lidl BLT has 3.36g salt (red/high) but one from Boots has 1.5g salt (amber/medium). Boots uses traffic lights, Lidl doesn’t.
An Aldi egg mayonnaise sandwich contains 22.3g fat (red/high) and one from Asda contains 10.1g (amber/medium). Asda uses traffic lights, Aldi doesn’t.
These results show that is is possible for retailers to reformulate their products to make them healthier. They also highlight the need for traffic light labelling to be applied across the board to provide consistency and allow shoppers to make informed choices.
Food label consultation
This week the government launched a consultation on food labelling. Which? is urging all food retailers and manufacturers to adopt clear front-of-pack labelling which includes traffic lights, as independent research has shown that this system enables consumers to compare products most easily.
Although six of the 15 outlets Which? compared do use traffic light labelling, the rest do not.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: ‘With obesity levels reaching epidemic proportions, it’s more important than ever that consumers know exactly what they’re eating.
‘Many retailers are already using traffic light labelling, but the rest need to catch up and do what works best for consumers. We want to see the government insist that all food companies use traffic lights on their labels, so there’s a clear, consistent system that makes it easier for people to make informed choices about what they eat.’