In a bid to tackle the obesity crisis -- six out of ten adults in the U.K. are overweight, costing the National Health Service around $6 billion a year -- the U.K. government has introduced a new "traffic light" food-labeling system. But the new labels have sparked controversy among marketers disagreeing on whether the plan will make life easier for consumers seeking a healthier diet. Here, we outline the pros and cons of the system.
What is the traffic-light system?
The U.K. government's new voluntary food labeling program uses red, amber and green color-coding as visual shorthand to show how "healthy" a food is. The labels, displayed on the front of packs, also show the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories in 100 grams of the product. The new system was introduced in mid-June, but it will be a few more weeks before some participants get their new labels into productions.
Why is it controversial?
Some food manufacturers argue that identifying food as healthy or unhealthy is wrong, because only diets can be healthy or unhealthy. They maintain that giving labels to 100 gram quantities of food, when we eat food in hugely different proportions, is confusing and misleading. For example, the traffic lights might be all green for diet cola and red for cheese, which tells you nothing about their nutritional value.
Many food manufacturers prefer to use Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) on their labels, showing how much of the recommended daily intake of calories and nutrients are in a particular product.