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.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Sainsbury's '50p challenge' poster telling staff to encourage customers to spend more placed in shop window instead of staff room
- 2 Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
- 3 Isis an hour away from Baghdad - with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
- 4 Yes, the iPhone 6 is a miracle, but it's Apple's tax affairs that deserve a double take
- 5 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...
NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...
Day In a Page
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
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location