New food labelling system planned to tackle rising obesity

A brand new universal food labelling system will be implemented in the near future on all food items across supermarkets in the UK. Although the exact date of introduction and final design has yet to be chosen, it is hoped that the new widely accepted system will finally banish any confusion for consumers regarding how healthy a particular product is.

Health minister Anna Soubry confirmed that that the new labels will include information on guideline daily amounts (GDA), in addition to the colour-coded traffic light system which also depicts levels of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories in terms of ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’.

Ms Soubry spoke out on the need for a nationwide food labelling system, saying: “The UK already has the largest number of products with front of pack labels in Europe but research has shown that consumers get confused by the wide variety of labels used. By having a consistent system we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake. Obesity and poor diet cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses, such as heart disease, later in life.”

The traffic light system works by having a postage-stamp sized sticker that states the percentage of a person’s recommended daily allowance contained in each product – red for high, amber for medium and green for low.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) first considered this approach back in 2006 after feedback from consumers suggested that they preferred this method of food labelling. Major supermarkets however such as Tesco, Morrison’s and Kellogg’s fiercely objected to this. They were angered at being told what to put on their food products as well as realising that a damaging red sticker on food products could look bad and effect sales and revenue.

Despite this negativity from those three companies, traffic lights were voluntarily implemented by certain big players in the food industry such as Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Waitrose. Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand, recalls the time when the company embraced the scheme, saying: “It was back in 2004 and I think it is fair to say that Sainsbury’s had lost a little bit of its sparkle. We were really up for driving change within the organisation. What we found with traffic lights was exactly that.”

The new kind of food label is estimated to be in use by summer 2013, with work now being done to create a certain design that will satisfy everybody.

Peter Hollins, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, spoke of his excitement regarding the latest announcement, raving it was a ‘quantum leap’ forward for public health. He said: “It’s now down to each and every retailer and manufacturer to step up and introduce these consistent front of pack food labels, including traffic light colours, so shoppers can make healthy food choices at a glance.”

The announcement for clearer food labels is fantastic news and they cannot come quick enough after Medical Specialists reported one week ago about rising obesity across Europe. In the meantime, we have weight loss treatments such as Xenical and the recently introduced XLS-Medical Fat Binder, which can help you drop the additional pounds that poor food labelling may have contributed to! XLS-Medical can even be purchased today without the need for a prescription. You can read more about both treatments from the obesity section of the Medical Specialists website.

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