11 Jun Are nutritional labels working?
For a while now, the UK government has turned to informational labelling to help tackle the growing levels of obesity among Britons. Many products now have traffic-light labels on the front of their packaging, showing the levels of substances like salt and fat contained within. However, some have suggested that these red, amber and green designs don’t work.
Traffic-light labelling failure?
The most recent figure to speak out against the government’s policy is Professor Jack Winkler, visiting lecturer at University College London and MRC Human Nutrition Research Cambridge. Speaking at the Food Matters Live show at the Excel, London, he claimed that policies like traffic-light labelling have been a “failure”.
Little incentive for companies to make healthier products
FoodManufacture.co.uk reported that, at the show, Professor Winkler said: “The trouble with the traffic light system is it only has three categories: red, amber and green. What that means is for a company to change from red to amber or amber to green, is often impossible without completely changing the product.”
Reliance on consumers making informed choices…
This means that people are relying on the labels to influence customer behaviour, rather than making companies provide healthier products. The idea is that people will try to avoid products with an overabundance of red or amber labels. This would gradually lead to them eating healthier, in theory.
…but are the traffic light labels effective?
However, this is impractical as many people already know that certain items are healthy or unhealthy, or they have little choice in what they buy due to money worries or a lack of culinary information. As such, these specific informational labels are not having much of an effect on the nation’s health.
A bit of lateral thought…
Companies producing healthy products can use informational labels much more effectively than just relying on the traffic-light scheme. There is an opportunity to help people eat healthier that can really be taken advantage of.
For example, companies can include on their products recipes or useful tips on healthy eating in a handy booklet label. This type of labelling can hold a lot of information without taking up any extra space, making it perfect for holding advice on how to eat well.