The voluntary system will include a combination of guideline daily amounts, the traffic light system and the words ‘high, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ to show how much fat, salt, sugar and calories are in each product. It is hoped it will be rolled out nationwide next year.
Public health minister Anna Soubry says: “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.”
The decision comes after a three-month consultation with the food industry about what a consistent, clear front-of-pack label should look like. Further talks will take place in the coming weeks over the exact design of the labels.
Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-Op all currently use similar labelling systems on their own-branded food. Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl have previously fought against calls for a consistent approach to health labelling, but it is thoght they are all now agreed to the system.
The Co-operative Food says: “ We believe hybrid labelling gives people the best possible chance to make an informed choice to ensure a balanced diet, and we fully support the recommendations made by the Department of Health and would urge all retailers and manufacturers to adopt this approach.”
“Shoppers can see at a glance whether a product has a high, medium or low amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt and how it contributes to their recommended daily intake.”
Successive Government have tried to introduce a universal labelling system. It has been under discussion for the past decade as a way of tackling rising rates of obesity.
Consumer group Which? welcomed the announcement but urged the Government to turn its attention to making sure food manufacturers signed up to the voluntary system.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, says: “Which? has campaigned for years for traffic light labelling so we’re pleased the Government has now decided to support this and that every major supermarket, except Iceland, is committed to the scheme. The Government now needs to press food manufacturers to do the same and make sure that labels are consistent and based on strong, independent criteria, so that consumers can easily compare products.”
Barbara Gallani, director of Food Safety & Science at the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the interests of the UK’s food and non-alcoholic drinks industry, says: “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.
“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.”