Traffic light label guidance for cereals amended

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sugars, Nutrition, Food

The UK regulator has amended its guidance on traffic light
labelling for cereal producers, allowing them to use the system to
now distinguish between the different types of sugars used in their

The modifications are part of the second edition of the technical guidance on traffic light labelling for all industry, issued today by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). The government agency has been encouraging food manufacturers to adopt voluntary traffic light labelling since 2004, claiming that the simple structure of symbols it created allows consumers to spot healthier products at a glance. Food manufacturers who comply with the scheme put red, amber and green symbols on food products to represent high, medium and low levels of fats, sugars and salts. In regards to cereals, the new guide now recommends that the traffic light labels should distinguish between types of sugars, after consumers complained that the colours do not distinguish between products high in added or artificial sugars, and those high in fruit sugars. "The sugars contained in dried fruit are assumed to be intrinsic and are not included as added sugars,"​ the guide now says. Consumers were particularly keen to separate the two categories as sugars derived from fruit, such as fructose, are generally lower in calories, while added sugars are perceived as unhealthier, the FSA said. Manufacturers should therefore provide separate text if sugars from fruit or milk have been used in the product, separate from the red, amber or green sugar symbol, the guide says. Suggestions given by the FSA include: "Contains naturally occurring sugars", and "This product has no added sugars but contains naturally occurring sugars". As well as cereals, the FDA also recommends traffic light labels on sandwiches, ready meals, burgers and sausages, processed meat and pizzas. "The research found that consumers felt traffic light labeling would be most helpful on composite, processed foods, which they had difficulty determining the nutritional content of,"​ the FDA said. For all of these foods, nutritional information should be given for "realistic" portion sizes, not for the food packet as a whole. To hammer home the point, manufacturers should make clear what a portion should be, "for example, half pack equals one portion"​ on a pack containing two burgers. The guide sets out for manufacturers the exact nutritional criteria for each colour band, which vary for different food products. For example, the fat content of a food product must be less then 3g per 100g to be marked with a green symbol, between 3g and 20g for amber, and over 20g for red. However, a beverage product only needs to contain 10g of fat to qualify for a red or high label. As well as the red, green and amber symbols, manufacturers must also provide extra information on the nutrients in the product, perhaps in the form on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs), a system that tells consumers the percentage of the adults male Guideline Daily Amount of the four key nutrients that each product contains. Companies who have adopted the traffic light labelling scheme in the UK include Waitrose, Sainsbury's, the Co-op, M&S, McCain, the New Covent Garden Food Company and Moy Park, according to the FSA website. However several other manufacturers have rejected the traffic light colour scheme, arguing that it is confusing for consumers and does not provide accurate nutritional information. In March, Danone, Kellogg's, Kraft, Nestle and PepsiCo and retailers Tesco and Morrisons joined together to launch a £4m campaign to promote using only guideline daily amount (GDA) labels. The GDA labels will allow consumers to 'make better-informed decisions about the food they eat', the companies argued. Food law experts at Eversheds agreed with these manufacturers, warning that the FSA's refusal to listen to the food industry would lead various confusing labelling systems. More detailed label guidance, as well as example signpost formats, can be found on the FSA website.

Related topics: Ingredients

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