Tesco in food labelling U-turn

Tesco is to introduce a traffic light food labelling system alongside “Guide Line Daily Amount” (GDA) information on packaging, a U-turn on its previous stance on the colour coding system.

Food labelling

The supermarket has until now only included GDA information and has previously said the traffic light system – which rates ingredients as good, bad or OK on the basis of their nutrional value – was too simplistic.

The supermarket claims that customers still prefer the GDA information to traffic light labels given a choice between the two. However, research it commissioned found customers favour a “hybrid” approach that includes both and offers in-depth guidelines alongside “at a glance” information.

Philip Clarke, Tesco CEO, says: “We always listen to our customers and they have told us that by combining our popular GDA labels with traffic light colour coding we can make it even easier for them to make informed and healthy choices about the food they buy.

“We are committed to doing what is right for our customers and therefore have decided to bring together the distinct benefits of GDAs and traffic lights.  We know customers are looking for a consistent approach, and intend to work with Government, health bodies, other retailers and manufacturers to deliver this as soon as possible.”

Supermarkets currently adhere to a voluntary agreement to provide comprehensive nutrition information on packs but despite the traffic light system being favoured by the Food Standards Agency, a consistent industry wide approach has never been reached despite the ongoing debate.

Both Asda and Waitrose have included both types of information on packs. Sainsbury’s uses the traffic light labelling system. Morrisons also favours providing GDA information on pack but says that it is “open minded” about alternative forms of nutrition labelling.

The move comes ahead of Government guidelines, expected soon, that could include proposals to provide both sets of information on packaging.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley welcomed Tesco’s move. “We launched our consultation on front of pack nutrition labelling earlier this year to try to ensure that as many food products as possible give clear and consistent information so that people can make informed decisions about how healthy their food is.

“I welcome Tesco’s announcement today which is a significant step towards achieving that goal. We know how important this is for consumers which is why we will continue to work hard with other retailers and food producers to try to achieve our aim of one consistent and clear system.

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