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Traffic lights to label food are not the answer

Published 09/11/2009

Tom Sutcliffe's article: 'Let's be clear about what we are eating' (November 4) talked about the relationship between simple scientific facts and public health.

He went on to extol the merits of the 'traffic light labelling' of food products, citing the simplicity of the system and the benefit that "it makes people more reluctant to stuff themselves with crap".

Sadly, the notion of 'scientific fact' then appears to have gone out of the window in favour of a more emotive approach.

There is no independent scientific evidence that traffic lights alter purchasing behaviour in favour of 'healthier options'.

Indeed a recent scientific paper in the journal Health Promotion International concluded: "Further research on the influence of nutrition signposting will be needed before this labelling format can be considered a promising public health intervention."

The basis on which the traffic light scheme assigns colours is quite arbitrary. Rather than trying to use "science" to justify one system over another, we think our efforts would be better focused on measures to encourage more consumers to use the labels already in market to help them make an informed choice.


Food and Drink Federation UK

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