Leading article: Healthy eating made complicated

Share

Why is it that relatively simple and sensible ideas take so unconscionably long to put into practice? The latest example is the so-called "traffic-lights" system of food labelling that would colour-code processed food with red, yellow or green circles, according to its fat, saturate, sugar and salt content.

Some 12 weeks ago, the Food Standards Agency launched a public consultation about whether manufacturers should be asked to adopt this system. It had come top of a survey in which people were asked to choose between four possible schemes. The second choice, with nutritional content shown in figures and colours, was also included in the consultation.

Yesterday, the FSA yesterday announced that it would recommend the "traffic lights" as the so-called industry standard. Unfortunately, however, this seems unlikely to happen. First, because the FSA has no power to impose this labelling; the standard will be only voluntary. Second, because five major manufacturers, including the food giants, Kraft, Danone and PepsiCo, have opted for a more complex labelling system which shows guideline daily amounts of salt, fat etc. And third, because Tesco, the dominant supermarket chain, has opted for a similar system tabulating the content of salt, sugar, saturated fat etc and how this relates to the recommended daily intake. Tesco said that customers found the amber marking confusing.

Just as confusing, perhaps, as they find the amber light at real traffic lights? Or as confusing as the food manufacturers and supermarkets would like them to? We find it hard not to suspect a perverse concern to make less healthy foods - with their often higher profit-margins - more difficult to identify than they would be under the traffic-lights labelling.

It could be argued that any agreed labelling system would be better than the confusion that exists at present. Nutritional content is often posted in the minutest of print and in technical detail that requires a science degree to interpret. Only where dietary information is the main selling point - fat-free, sugar-free, gluten free etc - is the information readily decipherable. Even the supposedly simplified system of labelling chosen by Tesco requires time and knowledge to interpret.

At a time when the Government and the medical establishment take every opportunity to warn us about obesity and unhealthy eating, and when the population at large is more concerned than ever before about food quality, there is great merit in a consistent system of labelling that is simple and direct. Regrettably, the "traffic lights" labels, where they are introduced, could now add just one more variable to the already muddled mix.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

FIFA awarded the World Cup to a state where slavery is actively facilitated

Aidan McQuade
 

The strange absence of women on our cultural landscape, and what I decided to do about it

Sian Norris
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003