Campaigners condemn new food industry warnings as unworkable

Half of adults will be unable to do the maths needed to understand the new labelling system being launched by the food industry in a £4bn advertising blitz next week, say campaigners.

In an attempt to derail the Government's traffic light warning system for processed food, 21 commercial giants have combined to publicise a rival scheme based on a product's contribution to daily allowances.

The Children's Food Campaign warned yesterday that figures from the Department for Education's skills for life survey suggested that 47 per cent of adults understood percentages so little they would be flummoxed by a scheme designed to improve their health.

Richard Watts, its co-ordinator, suspected the Food and Drink Federation project was a ruse to avoid red warning signs being slapped on junk food. "The food industry will be aware that their new labels will be useless to almost half of adults and most children, who simply lack the complex mathematical skills to interpret them," he said.

On Monday, an unprecedented alliance of food giants will launch a television, press and online advertising campaign called "Know what's going inside you".

Later this month the Food Standards Agency will counter the campaign with 10-second TV advertisements promoting its traffic light system.

Tony Blair warned the food industry last year it faced legislation unless it adopted effective labelling to indicate product healthiness. Most food retailers, including Sainsbury, Asda and Marks and Spencer, have backed the FSA system which uses colours to denote levels of sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt. A green light signifies a low level, rising to amber and then red for a high level.

The rival Guideline Daily Allowance (GDA) scheme is backed by an alliance of food manufacturers including Nestlé, Unilever, Kellogg and Tesco, the biggest food retailer.

The alliance was described yesterday by the £140bn a year food industry as its "biggest ever joint initiative". An industry spokeswoman, Jane Holdsworth, said: "We have made it simple to compare what's inside thousands of everyday foods so you can choose what best suits your diet."

The Food Standards Agency, which carried out research among 2,600 consumers before choosing the traffic light system, said: "We don't have a problem with Guideline Daily Allowances on front of pack but we want to see them accompanied by traffic light colours."

The public agency is spending only a "fraction" of the amount that the food industry has committed to its advertising blitz, prompting fears that the public may be unfairly swayed into backing the GDA scheme. Polling by Which? backed the FSA, finding that 97 per cent of people compared nutrients well using traffic lights. Sue Davies, chief food policy adviser at Which?, said: "Are retailers and manufacturers shying away from using simple, easy-to-interpret colours because they're scared to be up front about the fat, sugar and salt levels in their products?"

The FSA found that 62 per cent of people misunderstood the GDA label scheme, compared with only 21 per cent who misunderstood traffic light labels.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory