Do you take any notice of the traffic light system on food packaging? Green for go; amber for OK; and red for a slap-in-the-face, hold your horses, only on special occasions NO. It has always been a bit controversial, with loads of people saying they simply ignore it, but now you might find it at cafes and restaurants too.
A leading charity has suggested rolling the system out more fully could help Brits be healthier. Diabetes UK is calling for the move after it found that 61 per cent of adults find it hard to decipher the nutritional value of food when eating out. We hear you on that one!
The system doles out colours based on the levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in foods. This makes it easier to compare them than just figures that say the amounts of each, which many people don’t know how to judge.
Another study by the charity says that for nine in ten people the traffic lights help them to make more informed decisions about what they eat. With more than half of diners saying they eat out at least once a week, it’s not enough to choose healthy options at home.
Diabetes UK has launched a campaign called Food Upfront and is targeting 24 of the UK’s most well-known out-of-home brands. It hopes to influence them when it comes to taking responsibility for encouraging healthier choices.
Helen Dickens, assistant director of campaigns and mobilisation at the charity, said: “We’ve written to the biggest outlets in the sector, urging them to take the initiative by adopting our Food Upfront pledge, which would ensure that information about the nutritional contents of food consumers buy in restaurants, cafes and takeaways is easily accessible and understandable.”
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the condition in the UK and obesity is the biggest preventable risk factor. With so much temptation around and not much information on many products, it can be difficult for people in modern Britain to keep their weight in check.
The government is already looking at feedback it has on calorie labelling in a bid to see if the system is necessary. More than 15,000 people seem to think so, because they have sent emails from the Diabetes UK website to support the campaign.
But not everyone wants traffic light labels on food when they’re having a treat. Some areas of the restaurant industry think it may put people off eating out at a time when some well-known brands are struggling.
However, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, told The Express: “Hospitality businesses are supportive of measures to promote healthier options and have done so voluntarily in recent years. A mandatory traffic light system is completely unnecessary when businesses need to deal with numerous pressures at the minute, most notably Brexit.”