Traffic light label scheme given the green lightNutrition labels to help with healthy choices

19 June 2013

Red, yellow and green and peppers

A new front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme for food has been launched today, with all major supermarkets and many big brands signed up to use it.

Making a healthy choice in the supermarket is set to become much easier, thanks to the new, consistent front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme announced today.

The traffic light labels will use colour coding to help shoppers easily spot the levels of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar in the food they buy. The new labels will also provide information about the percentage reference intake (until now called 'guideline daily amounts' or GDAs). The reference intake information is a guide to how much you should eat in a day.

Campaigning for consistent labels

Which? has been campaigning for traffic light labelling for almost a decade and we welcome the new scheme.

Our research has shown that many people struggle to make healthy choices, so clear nutrition labels will make a big difference. Traffic lights also act as an incentive for food manufacturers to make their products healthier, so that they can offer consumers a choice of products carrying more ‘ambers’ and ‘greens’, rather than ‘reds’.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: 'With levels of obesity and diet-related disease on the increase, it’s vitally important that people know what is in their food, and this labelling scheme will encourage food companies to do more to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in popular products'.

Public health minister, Anna Soubry, highlighted the consistency of the new labels: 'The UK already has the largest number of products using a front-of-pack label in Europe, but we know that people get confused by the variety of labels that are used. Research shows that, of all the current schemes, people like this label the most and they can use the information to make healthier choices.'

Big names on board

Big brand names Mars UK, Nestle UK, PepsiCo UK, and Premier Foods have announced that they will join all the major supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, the Co-operative, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – in using the traffic light labels on their products. McCain Foods has already pledged its support for the scheme.

The traffic light labels will be rolled it out over the next few months, and the manufacturers and supermarkets will use the same criteria that have been developed by the Department of Health. The businesses that have signed up to using the new labels account for more than 60% of the food sold in the UK.

Support from big names is a great start for the scheme, but now we want to see more manufacturers get on board. Mr Lloyd added: ‘We hope that more food manufacturers will join the scheme so that their labels will be consistent and comparable to those on the front of the retailers' own packs.’

More on this…

  • Read the history of our campaign for traffic light nutrition labels
  • Find out more about making healthy eating easier
  • Join the food labelling debate on Which? Conversation