24 October 2012 10:55
Supermarket food labels across most of the major brands are to be overhauled in order to create a single, consistent system that will allow shoppers to easily spot the healthiest option, it will be announced today.
Health Minister Anna Soubry will introduce the scheme, which will include information on guideline daily amounts (GDAs) and which will be colour coded with a traffic light system using the words "high" "medium" or "low" to inform people about how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories are in food products.
Ms Soubry said: "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."
Peter Hollins, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This is a quantum leap for public health and the result of tireless work by health campaigners and positive action by our governments.
"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."
Richard Lloyd, executive director at consumer group Which?, added: "With levels of obesity and diet-related disease on the increase it's vitally important that people know what's in their food so that they can make an informed choice."
The design of the new label is yet to be decided, a Department of Health spokeswoman said, but it is expected to be in use by the summer of next year.
Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: "The UK has led the way in developing approaches to front-of-pack labelling and FDF members have voluntarily provided this information for many years.
"Per portion %GDA information, which in many cases have been implemented consistently across Europe, helps consumers put the food they eat in the context of their overall diet.
"Our members are committed to continuing to provide clear nutrition information to consumers and we will be actively engaged in further discussions with the Department of Health following today's announcement."