Martin Hickman: Green light for diet colour code
Saturday 23 May 2009
Where better to start a column than with your breakfast? According to the Breakfast Cereal Information Service, two-thirds of us eat Shreddies, Cornflakes or another cereal every week and many of them are high in salt and sugar (up to 40 per cent sugar).
You can work out whether your breakfast is one of these "cereal offenders" by checking the packet. Best of luck. You may find the level of nutrients hard to find and, at that time in the morning, you will have to do some maths.
To start with, you will have to check the suggested portion size, which varies between manufacturers: 30 grams in the case of Nestle; 40 grams for Kellogg's. Then you will have to work out your serving's percentage of the daily maximum of salt, sugar and fat. You may wonder why you are working so hard. And you would not be alone: Kellogg's and Nestle are using a system of food labelling that has been shown, repeatedly, to be less effective than a rival.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched its simple Traffic Light labelling scheme three years ago after polling 2,600 people. The idea was that all manufacturers would introduce traffic lights (red for unhealthy, amber for OK, green for healthy) to help people make informed dietary choices.
But five multinational giants which make processed food, Kellogg's, Danone, Kraft, Nestlé and PepsiCo, said: "We don't like it. We have a better scheme". Months before the FSA launched its scheme, the manufacturers went with Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs), which express how much a serving contributes to fat, salt and sugar intake as a percentage.
Each manufacturer is allowed to use its own colour scheme and labels can be on the side or back of the pack, not the front (though some are on the front).
Which? did its own poll of 600 people and found that traffic lights were best. In 2007, the National Heart Forum, which represents British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and 60 other health groups, investigated GDAs, found them riddled with problems and headed its report Misconceptions and Misinformation.
So has the Government forced the manufacturers to drop the inferior scheme? No, it dithered. Alarmed by the prospect of shoppers being confused by an array of labels, the FSA did a deal with the £70bn British food manufacturing industry to set up an independent panel to find the best system on the tacit understanding that the rebels would accept its finding.
The boring-sounding Nutrition Signpost Evaluation Project Management Panel has finally reported. After 18 months of independent research – including polling and simulated shopping tests with more than 3,000 adults – the panel found (feign surprise here) that traffic lights was the best system. It suggested GDAs could be superimposed on the top of them, something the FSA has long suggested as a compromise to the food manufacturers and Tesco and Morrisons, which are also refusing to introduce the scheme.
The FSA now wants the Government to force everyone to use traffic lights. Perhaps it will, but there may be a general election in the meantime.
The shadow Health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has insisted that GDAs are best, even after the latest evidence. Why would that be? Someone mutters darkly that it must be because food companies are funding the Conservative Party. I've checked. The Electoral Commission has not received any notification from the Tories of donations from major food manufacturers in the five years to 2008 (though 2009 may be important for election donations). So we must assume that Mr Lansley really believes GDAs are the best way of checking whether your breakfast cereal is healthy.
Heroes & Villians
*Every week I'll be naming a corporate hero and villain, drawn from my personal and professional life. No subject will be too large; or more likely too petty. So on to this week's heroes and villains:
Villains: Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Wilkinson's factor 15 sunscreens. Which? found all three had an SPF under 10. M&S and Tesco said Which? was wrong. Wilkinson's announced an investigation. (The best buy was Asda's £3 Sun Lotion Protection System SPF 15, with an SPF of 24).
Hero: Micro Scooters Ltd. A child's scooter breaks. Within days, for the modest sum of £2.49, the spare parts arrive with a cheerful note and instructions. Efficient, environmental, polite.
Bargain Hunter: Affordable art - suddenly being a collector is just a walk in the park
The FTSE 100 is inching closer to its record high but can it maintain these levels?
Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen
Money Insider: Peer-to-peer lenders come into their own as marketplace lending evolves
Has your Premium Bond won the £1million jackpot?
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...
£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads